Yesterday, within an hour of his scheduled execution, Hank Skinner request to the United States Supreme Court was granted, and the High Court stayed his execution by the State of Texas via lethal injection. We posted on Mr. Skinner’s case earlier this week: he continues to proclaim his innocence – has never veered from this – and a significant amount of DNA evidence has never been tested.
It seems that the defense never did the DNA testing on knives and other items during the trial, and while the items still set there, no one has ever checked to see if Texas got the right man.
Now, it’s possible that once DNA testing is done, the State of Texas will have to recognize that it has tried, convicted, and almost killed an innocent man for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and her two adult sons.
The case, 09-9000, will be decided by SCOTUS within the next thirty days.
And on the same day, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of Magwood v. Peterson (09-158), where Justice John Paul Stevens pointed to the Elephant in the Room — whether or not Magwood is not eligible for the death penalty was never determined in the case, and the State is now wanting to execute him because the defense didn’t prove up the ineligibility in proper procedural time.
Billy Joe Magwood was tried and convicted for the1979 killing of an Alabama sheriff, and he was sentenced to death in 1981. However, under Alabama law, capital punishment is only available when certain aggravating factors exist – and Magwood’s never fit into these categories.
Since his case never met the statutory standards, it’s being argued to the High Court that he shouldn’t be killed by the state. The state attorney, of course, argues that Magwood’s argument is barred. Waived. Adjudicated. Whatever.
Mr. Skinner and Mr. Magwood sit on Death Row. The States of Texas and Alabama, respectively, want to kill them. Skinner may be innocent. INNOCENT. Magwood should NEVER have been sentenced to death for his crime, under the very same state’s law that now seeks to kill him.
In both cases, different defense efforts might have kept these cases from ever being before the High Court, but they didn’t happen. These are two ineffective assistance of counsel cases.
Now, we watch and learn: how much is procedure to be valued — the "finality of the process" — over the live of an individual???
The U.S. Supreme Court is about to tell us. Watch and learn.