Sides in death row appeal debate hearing's outcome

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Associated Press

Posted on June 8, 2014 at 10:03 AM

AMARILLO, Texas (AP) — Attorneys for a man on death row in Texas and for the state have filed briefs to a judge who will rule whether to overturn his death sentence.

Hank Skinner's defense team asked the judge to rule it is "reasonably probable" he would have been acquitted in the 1993 slayings of his girlfriend and her two sons in Pampa if jurors had heard testimony about DNA evidence gathered at the crime scene, the Amarillo Globe-News (http://bit.ly/1ibl916 ) reported.

Attorneys for the state argued in their findings filed Friday that much of the DNA evidence in the case points solely to Skinner as the killer. The judge will review the findings from both sides before issuing his own.

Skinner, 52, has insisted he didn't kill his girlfriend and her sons, saying he was passed out on a couch from a mix of vodka and codeine at the time of their deaths on New Year's Eve. Twila Jean Busby, 40, was fatally beaten and her sons — 22-year-old Elwin Caler and 20-year-old Randy Busby — were stabbed to death.

He was 20 minutes away from being put to death in 2010 when the U.S. Supreme Court stayed his execution. After much legal wrangling, the state and Skinner's attorneys agreed in 2012 to do further testing of DNA evidence.

In February, state District Judge Steven Emmert held two days of evidentiary hearings during which attorneys grilled witnesses about their analyses of the DNA results.

In its filing, the state cited DNA results as evidence of Skinner's guilt, including samples found on a storm door and eight samples from a bloody knife identified as the weapon used in the slayings. Skinner's DNA profile appears on eight places on the knife and no other "unidentified foreign" DNA profile was found on it, according to the state.

"Regardless of any explanation that might be offered for innocent contact or transfer of DNA, the reported results consistently show that Skinner's DNA is mixed in blood on the murder weapon in all locations tested," the state said in its brief to the judge.

The defense lays out an alternate theory in its filing on how Skinner's DNA was found on the blade of the knife used in the sons' slayings, noting that Skinner reportedly had suffered a knife cut prior to the killings.

"If the bloody kitchen knife was used to inflict Mr. Skinner's injury, his blood could easily have migrated from its blade to its handle, a phenomenon regularly encountered in cases involving stabbings. It also could have been transferred there during the swabbing process in the laboratory," the defense argued.

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Information from: Amarillo Globe-News, http://www.amarillo.com

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