BY VOA NEWS – The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a Texas prisoner who was close to being executed last year can use a federal civil rights law to seek DNA evidence he says could prove his innocence.
In a 6-3 vote Monday, the court ruled that Hank Skinner has the right to have genetic testing carried out on evidence used to convict him. The testing was not performed on the evidence before his conviction. Skinner, who has maintained his innocence, was sentenced to death for the 1993 killings of his live-in girlfriend and her two adult sons.
Skinner’s attorney argued that Texas authorities violated his civil rights by refusing to grant DNA testing of the evidence after he was convicted. He is seeking to have testing done on knives, an ax handle, finger nail clippings and hair samples found at the crime scene.
Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Skinner will be allowed to pursue the DNA evidence, which may help prove his innocence or guilt, or turn out inconclusive. Skinner was about an hour away from being executed last year before the Supreme Court intervened.
The ruling only applies to situations in which the state’s law blocks all testing of available evidence, and could allow prisoners to sue for and obtain DNA evidence that went untested at the time of their trials.