You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

DNA in death row case to get new analysis


The long court fight over DNA testing for death row inmate Hank Skinner grew lengthier Wednesday when the state’s highest criminal court ordered that a new analysis be performed on DNA tests that might have produced questionable results.

The Court of Criminal Appeals ruling was the latest response to a notice, sent last year by the FBI, alerting members of the criminal justice system about potential mistakes in the way DNA matches were calculated in samples that included DNA from multiple people.

The process, known as “DNA mixture interpretation,” produced results that could overstate the reliability of a match, which is typically presented as accurate to within a minuscule fraction of a percent, the FBI warned last May.

Skinner, sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of girlfriend Twila Busby and her two adult sons in the Panhandle city of Pampa, had long pressed for DNA testing that wasn’t available during his 1995 trial, saying the results would bolster claims that he was too incapacitated by alcohol and codeine to have beaten Busby and stabbed her sons to death.

However, tests of blood found on a knife recovered from the scene showed Skinner’s DNA mixed with that of Busby’s sons — Elwin Caler, 22, and Randy Busby, 20. Along with other DNA tests, the findings prompted state District Judge Steven Emmert to rule that the new results wouldn’t have been enough to change jurors’ minds about Skinner’s guilt.

Skinner’s lawyers challenged the judge’s interpretation of the DNA results, telling the Court of Criminal Appeals in a November 2014 filing that the findings undermined key aspects of the prosecution’s theory of the murders.

But while the court was weighing Skinner’s latest appeal, the FBI issued its memo on DNA mixtures, prompting the Texas Forensic Science Commission to advise prosecutors and defense lawyers to have such DNA results reassessed so a new match probability could be calculated.

The Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab announced last year that it had stopped using DNA mixture standards that had been in place since 1999. The DPS also agreed to issue new findings in Skinner’s test results but first needed to rewrite laboratory procedures and acquire specialized software, according to court records.

The new lab procedures will begin March 18, the DPS said Wednesday.

In its 8-1 ruling Wednesday, the Court of Criminal Appeals returned Skinner’s appeal to the trial court to “ensure that the recalculation is performed in a timely manner” and ordered the judge to submit new conclusions, if warranted, about the meaning of the test results.

The appeals court also said it wanted the matter resolved within 90 days, but it indicated that the deadline could be extended.

“They’re willing to let DPS take the time they need to accommodate us with the other cases they’re obviously going to be looking at as well,” said Rob Owen, Skinner’s lawyer and a law professor at Northwestern University in Illinois.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Florida deputy's co-workers share embarrassing post on social media
Florida deputy's co-workers share embarrassing post on social media

Even police officers can make a mistake when they are in a rush, which is why the Volusia County Sheriff's Office posted a picture that poked fun at one of their own.  Sheriff's spokesman Andrew Grant told the Daytona Beach News-Journal the deputy was waiting out the rain in DeLand, Florida, while topping off his tank and forgot about...
New museum slated for Round Rock along Chisholm Trail
New museum slated for Round Rock along Chisholm Trail

A new museum is slated to open in Round Rock along the Chisholm Trail in the coming months. The museum is expected to be called the Williamson Museum on the Chisholm Trail and is slated to have a grand opening on April 1. Mickie Ross, executive director of the Williamson Museum in Georgetown, made the announcement Thursday at the Round Rock City Council...
Police chief, officer charged in shooting death of 73-year-old woman
Police chief, officer charged in shooting death of 73-year-old woman

An accidental shooting at a citizen’s police academy in Punta Gorda, Florida, resulted in the death of a retired librarian and charges against a police chief and an officer. According to WINK, Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis and Officer Lee Coel were charged in connection with an August shooting that killed 73-year-old Mary Knowlton...
Roughly 100 have gathered for ‘Queer Dance Freakout’ in front of governor’s mansion in Austin
Roughly 100 have gathered for ‘Queer Dance Freakout’ in front of governor’s mansion in Austin

About 100 people are currently in front of the Texas governor’s mansion, at 1010 Colorado St., as part of the “Queer Dance Freakout.”  The event, which lasts until 9 p.m., is part gay pride celebration and part protest. Those in attendance showed up to take issue with the state’s proposed transgender bathroom...
Man shot near LBJ High School, officials say
Man shot near LBJ High School, officials say

10:25 p.m. update: Officials confirmed that a man was shot near the LBJ High School campus, which is what prompted a lockdown at the school just after 5 p.m. EMS medics took an adult man to the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. His injuries are potentially life-threatening. The shooting happened in...
More Stories