WASHINGTON – The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a Texas Death Row inmate can ask a federal court to allow DNA testing on crime scene evidence he says will clear his name.
The US high court ruled by a six to three vote that Hank Skinner, 48, could ask the court to permit genetic testing performed on evidence found at the scene, which Texas prosecutors have refused to do.
Skinner was convicted of bludgeoning his girlfriend to death and fatally stabbing two of her children on New Year’s Eve in 1993.
While he has not denied being in the home during the killings, Skinner, who was convicted in 1995, insists that DNA collected at the site would prove his innocence.
Skinner, who is married to a French woman and who one year ago came within minutes of being put to death, has received support from the government of France in pressing his appeal.
His wife, Sandrine Ageorge-Skinner, told AFP that she was overcome with emotion upon learning of the ruling.
“I burst into tears. I was shaking,” she said.
“The wait, frankly, has been unbearable,” Ageorge-Skinner said of the protracted legal process, which she said could still take another “several years.”
Skinner’s attorney meanwhile, said the decision corrected a grave injustice, after the federal court originally denied his legal team’s access to the evidence.
“The high court’s ruling will simply make it possible for Mr Skinner to vindicate his due process rights in federal court, a right long enjoyed by prisoners in other parts of the country,” attorney Robert Owen said in a statement.
“We look forward to making our case in federal court that Texas’s inexplicable refusal to grant Mr Skinner access to evidence for DNA testing is fundamentally unfair and cannot stand,” he said.
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