The U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution of Henry Skinner in Texas just one hour before he was to be put to death yesterday for the 1993 murders of his girlfriend and her two adult sons, reports the Houston Chronicle. Skinner is seeking review of an appellate court decision denying a request for DNA testing of bloody knives, material beneath the dead woman’s fingernails, rape kit samples, and other items found at the murder scene. His request for testing was denied because it was filed as a civil rights claim.
Rob Owen of the University of Texas’ Capital Punishment Center said that most of the nation’s federal appellate courts would have accepted a civil rights claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Texas would not. Skinner’s case gained international notoriety after journalism students from Chicago’s Northwestern University located potential witnesses who hadn’t been interrogated and drew attention to the fact that seemingly important items never had been subjected to DNA testing.