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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Hear Case of Death Row Inmate Seeking DNA Test

Posted May 24, 2010 9:48 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a Texas death row inmate has the right to DNA tests that his lawyer rejected because he feared they would be incriminating.

The Supreme Court agreed today to hear the appeal by inmate Hank Skinner, convicted of murdering his girlfriend and two sons in 1993, according to SCOTUSblog and the Associated Press. At issue is whether Skinner can seek DNA tests under federal civil rights law—his only remaining chance to obtain the evidence—rather than a habeas challenge.

Skinner admits he was in the house where his girlfriend and her two sons were stabbed to death in 1993, but he says the vodka and codeine he ingested that night left him without the physical strength or mental capacity to commit the crime. Among the items that have not been tested are two knives, a bloody towel and a rape kit.

According to Skinner’s cert petition, seven federal appeals courts permit the civil rights claim and two bar it.

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