|Henry “Hank” Skinner|
|Wednesday, September 13, 2023 at 6:00 pm|
|Death has commuted the death sentence of Hank Skinner. He died in hospital Feb. 16, 2023, of complications from surgery. The history of his previous execution date of Sept. 13, 2023: His latest execution date is one in a series of many over the years, marked by stays and wrangling over the testing of various pieces of crime-scene evidence for DNA. Skinner and his French wife insist he is innocent of the triple homicide for which he was convicted. His 2023 death date was set after a district court judge ruled against Skinner, saying it was “reasonably probable” he would have still been convicted of the murders even if recently conducted DNA evidence had been available at his 1995 trial. Skinner was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two adult sons, Randy Busby and Elwin Caler, in 1993 at their Pampa home.|
Skinner transcripts received by attorneys
April 11, 2014
Defense attorneys requesting extension to 21-day deadline.
Attorneys with the state Attorney General’s Office and convicted murderer Hank Skinner’s defense team say they have received copies of the court transcripts from Skinner’s evidentiary hearing in Gray County on Feb. 3 and 4.
Receipt of the transcripts triggers a 21-day period for attorneys to file their findings from the witness testimony back to the 31st District Court.
Lauren Been, a spokeswoman for the AG’s Office, said both sides are required to respond.
Skinner, who is on death row for the brutal murders of Pampa resident Twila Busby and her two adult sons on New Year’s Day 1993, is being represented by attorneys Douglas Robinson and Robert Owen. If District Judge Steven Emmert rules favorably for Skinner, his attorneys could seek an appeal.
Emmert does not have a deadline to file his decision, but his bailiff, Wayne Carter, said the judge wants to move along quickly with the case.
A spokeswoman from Robinson and Owen’s office in Washington D.C. said Thursday they are waiting for a few exhibits from the court and are requesting the court to extend the filing deadline to May 30.
Skinner was not at the hearing in which both sides presented evidence from a series of recent DNA tests.
PAMPA-TX -Testimony ends in Hank Skinner’s DNA hearing
february 5, 2014
PAMPA — A Texas Department of Public Safety expert testified Tuesday that genetic material found on a knife at the scene of a 1993 triple homicide was consistent with Hank Skinner’s DNA profile, but the death row inmate’s defense team maintains that another man killed the family.
Georgette Oden, an assistant attorney general, quizzed DPS expert Brent Hester about a battery of DNA testing results during an evidentiary hearing at the Gray County courthouse.
Testimony ended Tuesday in the two-day hearing, but attorneys for both sides are expected to submit further briefs to District Judge Steven Emmert after court transcripts are completed.
The hearing focused on whether it is “reasonably probable” that Skinner, now 51, would have been acquitted if all DNA evidence in the case had been presented at his 1995 trial, according to court records.
Skinner was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die in the slayings of Twila Jean Busby, 40, and her sons — 22- year-old Elwin “Scooter” Caler and 20-year-old Randy Busby.
Skinner has claimed he was too intoxicated to have slain the Busbys because he drank vodka and took codeine on the night of the killings.
After the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Skinner’s execution three times due to changing post-conviction law, prosecutors agreed to allow DNA testing, and both sides now have received the results.
Hester, a DPS analyst from the Lubbock crime lab, testified Tuesday that genetic material recovered from the blade of a knife found on the front porch of the victims’ home could be linked to Skinner. Forensic tests on the knife blade, he said, proved the presence of blood on the weapon, and the material found on the knife contained DNA traces from Skinner, Caler and Busby.
“We do not say it was that person’s DNA,” Hester said of how DPS interprets DNA results recovered from a crime scene. “They are not consistent solely with him, but they are consistent with him being a possible contributor.”
Hester also testified that some DNA recovered from the crime scene was contaminated with his DNA and that of a former court reporter who handled evidence in the case. The longtime forensic scientist also testified that some genetic material recovered from a carpet stain, door handles in the home and a door frame could be tied to Skinner.
Hester also said DNA from an unknown individual also was located in the carpet stain, which was in a bedroom where the two male victims were found. Hester said that genetic material could have been deposited when the carpet was originally laid and could have come from nearly anyone who visited the Busby home at 804 E. Campbell St. in Pampa.
Robert Owen, Skinner’s attorney, said after the hearing that testimony showed minute traces of DNA from an unknown person and Twila Busby’s blood had been found on a dish towel that had been left in a plastic bag at the crime scene.
Owen also said the prosecution has claimed that Skinner stabbed Randy Busby in the back while he lay on his bunk bed, but Owen said testimony presented during the hearing casts doubt on the state’s theory.
“If Mr. Skinner stabbed Randy Busby in the manner claimed by the state, Mr. Skinner’s blood should have been on the blanket of Randy’s bed. It was not. If Mr. Skinner’s hands were covered with the victims’ blood when he staggered out of the house, their blood should have been mixed with his on the doorknobs he touched. It was not,” Owen said in a statement.
Owen said a state expert’s testimony also indicated that three of four hairs found in Twila Busby’s hand — hairs the defense said contain DNA consistent with a maternal relative of the victims — were “visually dissimilar” to the victim’s own hair. That testimony, he said, supports the defense team’s conclusion that Robert Donnell, Twila Busby’s now-deceased uncle, killed the Pampa family.
“The state presented no compelling evidence that the hairs could have come from another maternal relative. In fact, Ms. Busby’s mother stated under oath before Mr. Skinner’s trial that she had not been inside the house in the preceding four months,” Owen said in a statement.
Owen also said he was disappointed that Emmert did not allow testimony from a key witness about a jacket found at the crime scene. The witness was prepared to testify the now-missing jacket belonged to Donnell.
“At the DNA hearing, Mr. Skinner sought to present testimony from a witness who can positively identify the jacket as Donnell’s, and to have his DNA expert explain how testing could have confirmed Donnell’s DNA on the jacket,” Owen said in a statement. “We respectfully disagree with this decision. In our view, this evidence is at the center of the case. It shows why a jury that heard all the evidence, including DNA results, would have harbored a reasonable doubt about Mr. Skinner’s guilt.”
Owen also noted that much of the DNA evidence gathered in the case was mishandled, contaminated or lost.
Owen indicated in his statement that “doubts about Hank Skinner’s guilt are far too great to allow his execution to proceed, particularly where the state’s utter failure to safeguard key pieces of evidence may make it impossible to resolve those questions conclusively.”
(Source: Amarillo Globe News)
TEXAS -Day two of death row inmate Hank Skinner’s evidentiary hearing
february 4. 2014
Texas: Assistant attorney general tears down Skinner defense witness
During cross examination of defense witness Dr. Julie Heinig, PhD, a DNA expert from Cincinnati, Ohio, Georgette Oden, an assistant state attorney general, began a systematic dismantling of Heinig’s credentials as an expert witness.
Oden began by pointing out inconsistencies in Heinig’s education, and the witness’ lack of complete training with DNA evidence testing.
As an example, Oden brought out that of the 10 publications written by Heinig for her PhD., five were about lamprey eel research and two were in DNA fingerprint analysis.
Oden then asked if it’s true that Heinig’s employer, DNA Diagnostics Center, does DNA testing for the “Maury Povich Show,” a tabloid television talk show also based in Cincinnati. The lab is often called upon to perform DNA testing in child custody cases that are aired on the TV show.
Heinig answered yes, and Oden countered with, “Then it’s true that your employer’s DNA testing regimens do not follow the standard procedure of the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s crime lab?”
Heinig again answered yes.
Cross examination by Oden then delved into the defense’s contention that many of the blood samples taken were not conclusive for Hank Skinner’s DNA.
In her questioning, Oden asked Heinig if there were any samples of mixed blood that could have excluded Skinner from the crime scene. DNA testing done by the state proved it was inclusive on whether Skinner’s DNA was in those blood samples.
Heining agreed that the tests did not exclude Skinner from the crime scene.
Four hairs were found on Twila Busby’s hand at the crime scene but were not tested. Busby and her two sons were the victims in the brutal triple homicide on Dec. 31, 1993. Skinner was Busby’s live-in boyfriend.
The defense had earlier questioned why the hairs weren’t tested.
The state then brought as its witness John Lan Bundy, a former trace analyst for the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab in Lubbock, whose responsibility at the time was identifying the hairs found on Busby’s hand.
Bundy testified that of those four hairs, one was an animal hair and the other three were not sufficient for laboratory testing because they weren’t attached to their roots.
DNA cannot be taken from a hair unless it has a root and there are obvious differences between human hair and animal hair, he said.
At that point, the state passed the witness to the defense, who chose not to cross examine Bundy.
The hearing recessed shortly after 5 p.m. and will reconvene at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Pampa, TX – Day two has just come to a close after some 6 hours of discussion, both the state and Hank Skinner’s defense team have rested their cases.
What happens next, is both sides will submit a proposed fining report, basically explaining to the judge why they think he should side with them. After court transcripts are filed, the state and the defense team have 21 days to make those reports. After three weeks, the judge will make a decision.
No official decision has been made regarding death row inmate Hank Skinner. Over the last two days, his defense team tried to create reasonable doubt surrounding evidence that was collected from the 1993 crime scene. The state says DNA points to Skinner as the killer of Twila Busby and her two sons.
(Source: NewsChannel 10)
Pampa : DNA hearing set in case of Texas death row inmate – Hank Skinner
february 3, 2014 (AP)
PAMPA, TX — A hearing is set regarding recent DNA testing in the case of a Texas death row inmate convicted of a triple slaying in the Panhandle.
Attorneys for the state and Hank Skinner’s attorneys will present testimony during the two-day hearing set to begin Monday in Pampa.
Skinner’s attorneys hope to show he didn’t kill a woman and her two sons in 1993. The 52-year-old was convicted of capital murder in 1995.
Court documents filed by the state say results of DNA testing done at a law enforcement lab “further confirm” Skinner’s guilt. Skinner’s attorneys say more sophisticated test results from an independent lab make doubts about his guilt “too weighty” to allow his execution.
Each side will submit written arguments after the hearing. The judge will later release his findings.
Defense lawyers: Skinner won’t appear in Pampa
Hank Skinner, the Texas death-row inmate convicted of murdering his live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her sons, Randy and Elwin “Scooter” Caler, will not be attending an evidentiary hearing scheduled in Pampa Monday and Tuesday.
An employee who works for Skinner’s defense attorneys, Douglas Robinson and Robert Owen, told The Pampa News that both the state and defense attorneys will offer witnesses and other evidence, such as laboratory reports, to show what results were produced by the DNA testing that has been performed in Skinner’s case over the past 18 months. The attorneys will try to argue about what inferences can be drawn from those test results, she said.
A series of tests on DNA taken from the crime scene have been performed since June 2012, two by a Texas Department of Safety crime lab in Lubbock and one by an independent laboratory in Virginia.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office, who is presenting the state’s case to the court, claims the DNA tests overwhelmingly show that evidence collected at the crime scene consistently shows that Skinner is guilty of strangling and bludgeoning Busby in the living room of her home on New Year’s Eve 1993.
The defense attorneys claim the DNA tests performed at the Virginia lab point to Robert Donnell, Twila Busby’s deceased uncle, as the real killer in the triple homicide. The attorneys say it is well known that Donnell was making unwelcome advances to Busby on the night she was killed.
Judge Steven R. Emmert of the 31st District will not issue a definitive ruling at the conclusion of the hearing, the employee said.
Instead, the parties will have an opportunity to submit written arguments in late February, and the judge will issue a definitive ruling after considering those arguments.
A ruling in Skinner’s favor in this proceeding would not automatically reverse his conviction.
(Source: The Pampa News) #deathpenalty #hankskinner
Texas death row inmate awaits final judgement – Hank Skinner
June 23, 2013 http://www.france24.com
Hank Skinner escaped execution in 2010 by only 20 minutes after a dramatic 11th-hour reprieve. He now regards this as a miracle.
The 51-year-old, who was convicted in 1995 of the brutal triple murder of his girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two adult sons, has protested his innocence for years, despite DNA evidence against him.
Haunted by the possibility of execution, the wait has taken a mental toll, says Skinner, who admits that in one sense, death may come as a relief.
“Living under the sentence of death is never off, it’s always on your mind. It’s always sitting on your chest, it’s always on your shoulders and they’re killing people about once a week. It’s so heavy because there’s a pall of death over this place,” he told AFP in an interview.
He tries to paint a picture for outsiders: “If someone kidnaps you and takes you down to the basement and they have jail cells there, six of them. There are six people here and every morning they come down with a gun with six bullets. They point it at you and you hear somebody die right next to you”.
“The first 10 times it happens, you think you’d be glad it’s not you, but after so many times, watching it happen to somebody else, you’d be praying the gun would go off on you.”
Texas prosecutors argue that recently re-examined DNA evidence taken from the crime scene proves Skinner’s guilt.
They point to a knife found caked with his blood, and blood spattering on the walls of a room where two of the killings took place.
Skinner’s legal team counter by insisting the DNA evidence paints only a partial picture of the scene, that Skinner was injured and that questions remain about the disappearance of a bloody jacket worn by Busby’s late uncle.
Skinner points out that the first round of tests showed the presence of a third person’s DNA at the scene whose name has not been determined.
As things stand, barring another twist to his case, Prisoner Number 999-143 is still on death row, at the Polunsky Unit jail in Texas.
But Skinner said he has not given up hope of a final reprieve.
And while he insists he is innocent, he is adamant that even the guilty among his fellow death-row inmates deserve pity.
“I’ve been here 20 years now and they have killed 400 people since I’ve been here,” he says into a telephone sitting behind a reinforced glass divide. The 500th execution is scheduled for Wednesday in nearby Huntsville.
“People don’t realize, they say ‘Oh these guys are monsters’ or whatever. They’re not, they’re just regular people just like me”.
“You walk in the normal world you’d find the same people you find here, they’re just people who made terrible awful mistakes but they can’t be judged by the single worst thing they’ve done in their life.”
During his incarceration, Skinner has married a French wife, the militant anti-death penalty activist Sandrine Ageorges, who regularly visits him.
Skinner longs for a day when he can taste freedom and take Ageorges in his arms.
“The girlfriend that was killed she was the woman of my dreams,” says Skinner. “I have the same thing for Sandrine. You’ve seen love at the first sight, that’s pretty much what it was.
“I definitely see her as my second chance, we think so much alike, it’s amazing. We got married by proxy … when I get out of here we’re gonna have another marriage ceremony where I can be there and I can really kiss her.”
Despite the looming veil of execution, Skinner says he retains a lust for life. “I am a big party person, I like to make love, I like to have a good time, I like to laugh, to tell jokes,” he says.
He regards his 2010 reprieve, when the US Supreme Court stayed his execution in order to consider the question of whether DNA tests not requested by his trial lawyer could be carried out, as a “miracle.”
He vividly recalls his last meal, the journey to the execution chamber, and the realization that he had been spared.
“When they took me over there to kill me … they brought my last meal.
“I ate it all, the whole time I could look right up in bars through this door and there’s the gurney and the microphone hanging there and the witness window. Literally looking at death”.
“Getting in a bus to go to a place you’ve never been, like a different planet. The unknown, I’ve never died before. I don’t know what it’s like. But I know it’s permanent,” he laughs.
“My head was buzzing, and I dropped the phone. I couldn’t hear anything, I thought I was floating. I couldn’t believe it,” he said of the moment when he realized he had escaped execution by a matter of minutes.
Although he holds out hope of winning his freedom, Skinner has revealed the last words he then had thought of: “Before this body is even cold, I will walk again.”
Texas AG: New tests don’t clear death row inmate – HANK SKINNER
November 14, 2012
New DNA testing in the case of a Texas Panhandle man on death row for a New Year’s Eve triple-slaying doesn’t support an alternate theory of the crime, the state attorney general’s office said Wednesday.
Hank Skinner once came within an hour of execution for the 1993 killings of girlfriend Twila Busby and her two grown sons in Pampa, about 50 miles northeast of Amarillo. Now 50, Skinner’s execution has been stayed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Both his attorney and prosecutors agreed in June to new DNA testing of evidence.
The attorney general’s office filed a court advisory Wednesday that says new testing “does not support Skinner’s claim that an alternative suspect is the real killer.”
Skinner has argued he wasn’t the killer because he was passed out on a couch from a mix of vodka and codeine. The AG’s advisory says traces of Skinner’s DNA were located in blood in the bedroom where one of Busby’s sons, Randy Busby, was found stabbed to death. Prosecutors said his DNA also was matched to blood stains throughout the house.
Skinner attorney Rob Owen objected to Wednesday’s advisory, calling its findings premature. In a statement, Owen said it was “troubling” that the AG’s office submitted a report while testing was still ongoing. The AG’s office says both sides are discussing whether to conduct more tests.
“We will remain unable to draw any strong conclusions about whether the DNA testing has resolved the stubborn questions about Hank Skinner’s guilt or innocence until additional DNA testing has been completed, and the data underlying that DNA testing has been made available to our experts for a detailed review,” Owen said in the statement.
While Skinner’s DNA was found on the handle of a bloody knife on Twila Busby’s front porch, Owen said the handle also had genetic material from two other people: Busby’s other slain son, Elwin Caler, and a third person other than Skinner or the victims. Owen said an unknown person’s DNA also was found on the carpet of the sons’ bedroom.
Skinner has acknowledged he argued with Busby on the night she was killed and that he was inside the house where the victim’s bodies were found. He was found about three hours after the bodies were discovered, hiding in a closet at the home of a woman he knew. Blood from at least two of the victims was found on him.
The attorney general’s office had argued against DNA testing, which Skinner’s trial attorneys did not request, but changed course. The state agreed to allow testing of a list of 40 items, though not a windbreaker jacket Skinner’s advocates consider crucial to establishing an alternate suspect’s guilt.
TEXAS – Agreement on DNA testing in Skinner case, but “key” evidence missing
June 13, source : http://www.chron.com
DNA testing of evidence in the Henry Skinner triple murder case hit yet another snag this week as prosecutors admitted that a blood-stained windbreaker – termed “perhaps the key piece of evidence” by the killer’s lawyer – cannot be found.
In a motion laying out terms of a joint agreement to begin testing filed late Tuesday, the state and Skinner attorney Rob Owen identify 40 items to be submitted for testing. Among them are clippings from a victim’s fingernails, vaginal swabs, and knives found at the scene of the 1993 New Year’s Eve Pampa murder.
Skinner, 50, was convicted of fatally bludgeoning his girlfriend, Twila Busby, and stabbing to death her two adult sons. He consistently has maintained his innocence, saying that consumption of codeine and alcohol had rendered him incapable of killing the victims.
Prosecutors in Tuesday’s filing concede that the windbreaker, collected from the scene by the Pampa Police Department, has not been found.
“According to the state, every other single piece of evidence in this case has been preserved,” Owen said in an email. “It is difficult to understand how the state has managed to maintain custody of items as small as fingernail clippings while apparently losing something as large as a man’s windbreaker jacket. To date, the state has offered no explanation for its failure to safeguard evidence in this case.”
A spokesman for the Texas Attorney General’s Office declined immediate comment.
Owen said the jacket, which appears to be stained with perspiration and blood, may have been worn by the assailant. Owen said that, since the trial, a witness has identified the jacket as one worn by Busby’s uncle.
That man, now dead, reportedly was seen stalking Busby at a party shortly before her murder.
Skinner has had at least two execution dates set. Last November, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a stay to ascertain how revised laws regarding such testing may apply to his case.
Skinner has endeavored for more than a decade to obtain DNA testing of seemingly important evidence gathered at the crime scene.
Once a Gray County district court approves the proposed joint order, agencies or entities possessing items to be tested will have five days to send them to the Texas Department of Public Safety laboratory in Austin.
TEXAS – State Backs DNA Testing for Hank Skinner
June 1, 2012 Source :http://www.texastribune.org
Reversing its decade-long objection to testing that death row inmate Hank Skinner says could prove his innocence, the Texas Attorney General’s office today filed an advisory with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals seeking to test DNA in the case.
“Upon further consideration, the State believes that the interest of justice would best be served by DNA testing the evidence requested by Skinner and by testing additional items identified by the state,” lawyers for the state wrote in the advisory.
Skinner, now 50, was convicted in 1995 of the strangulation and beating death of his girlfriend Twila Busby and the stabbing deaths of her two adult sons on New Year’s Eve 1993 in Pampa. Skinner maintains he is innocent and was unconscious on the couch at the time of the killings, intoxicated from a mixture of vodka and codeine.
Rob Owen, co-director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Capital Punishment Clinic, said he was pleased the state “finally appears willing to work with us to make that testing a reality.”
The details of the testing, he said, will still need to be arranged to ensure the evidence is properly handled and identified.
“Texans expect accuracy in this death penalty case, and the procedures to be employed must ensure their confidence in the outcome,” he said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to cooperating with the State to achieve this DNA testing as promptly as possible.”
State lawyers have opposed testing in the case, arguing that it could not prove Skinner’s innocence and that it would create an incentive for other guilty inmates to delay justice by seeking DNA testing. Today, though, the state reversed its course and has prepared a joint order to allow the tests.
Since 2000, Skinner has asked the courts to allow testing on crime scene evidence that was not analyzed at his original trial, including a rape kit, biological material from Busby’s fingernails, sweat and hair from a man’s jacket, a bloody towel and knives. Owen told the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last month that if DNA testing on all the evidence points to an individual who is not Skinner, it could create reasonable doubt about his client’s guilt.
The advisory comes a month after that hearing before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, in which the judges on the nine-member panel grilled attorneys for the state about their continued resistance to the testing even after a spate of DNA exonerations in Texas. In Texas, at least 45 inmates have been exonerated based on DNA evidence.
“You really ought to be absolutely sure before you strap a person down and kill him,” Judge Michael Keasler said at the May hearing.
State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, praised the Texas Attorney General’s move on Friday. Legislators last year approved a bill that Ellis wrote amending the state’s post-conviction DNA testing law to allow for such analysis in cases like Skinner’s. Under the measure, inmates can obtain testing even in instances where they had the chance to test the DNA at trial but did not do so and in cases where the DNA was tested previously but new technology allows for more advanced testing.
In Skinner’s case the state had long argued that he should not be allowed to test the DNA evidence because he had the opportunity to do so at his trial but chose not to. He sought testing again after the DNA measure was approved last year.
“Now we will have certainty in the Skinner case because we will have analyzed all the evidence,” Ellis said in a statement. “There should be no lingering questions in capital cases.”