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Death-row inmate’s wife ‘hopeful’ after DNA ruling

Latest update : 21/06/2012

Article text by Tony TODD

The French wife of death-row inmate Hank Skinner, who received a last minute stay of execution in 2010, is “hopeful” after a court ruled to DNA test some 40 pieces of evidence for the first time could clear him.

The French wife of Texas death-row inmate Hank Skinner said Thursday she was confident a decision to take a fresh look at DNA evidence would clear her husband.

Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner told FRANCE 24 in a television interview (video above) that she was “extremely happy” that a Texas appeals court had cleared the way to test 19-year-old evidence - something that 49-year-old Skinner has been demanding for more than a decade.

In 1995 Skinner was convicted of bludgeoning to death girlfriend Twila Busby and fatally stabbing her two adult sons.

Skinner does not deny that he was present in Busby’s home at the time of the killings - but he claims he was comatose at the time after drinking a cocktail of vodka and codeine and that he was in no fit state to carry out the murders.

He has insisted that untested DNA collected at the site could clear him as a suspect in the 1993 crimes.

“There was a clear intention to try him and find him guilty without any kind of investigation into other suspects that were pretty obvious at the time,” Ageorges-Skinner told FRANCE 24.

“The fact that the police and the prosecution had a wealth of evidence from the crime scene that they did not test was quite surprising.”

Authorities’ refusal to carry out tests

Texas authorities at first refused to carry out the tests since a jury convicted him in 1995, but in a turnaround this month they joined Skinner's attorneys in asking the appeals court to reconsider the request, which had been denied by lower courts.

Skinner’s case gained worldwide notoriety in March 2010 when the US Supreme Court issued a stay of execution just 35 minutes before the sentence was to be carried out in order to consider the issue of DNA testing.

Skinner was granted a further stay of execution in November 2011.

The latest twist in the saga came on June 12 when the Texas appeals court ruled that further DNA testing could take place, a ruling likely to be confirmed by a lower court in the coming days.

Some 40 items, including vaginal swabs, nails, hair, blood stains, knives and a piece of cloth will be DNA tested for the first time.

However, the testing will not include a windbreaker stained with blood and sweat, considered to be key evidence, which has “disappeared”, according to Ageorges-Skinner.

Skinner’s wife, who met her husband while he was on death row, remains cautiously confident.

“We hope that they will find the DNA profile of the guilty person,” she said.

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