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Tags death penalty cases , dna evidence , Hank Skinner

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Old 2nd June 2012, 04:29 AM   #1
Chris_Halkides
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DNA testing in the Hank Skinner case in Texas

Hank Skinner was convicted of killing his girlfriend and her two adult sons on the night of New Year's Eve in 1993. He said that he was passed out on the couch. Skinner wished to have someone test knives and a jacket found at the scene at the time of his trial, among other items, but his attorney advised against it. Texas passed a law allowing for post-conviction DNA testing in cases like this, but until now the state has fought against DNA testing in this instance.
EDT
There is a short thread on the mitochondrial DNA evidence in this case here.
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Old 2nd June 2012, 06:42 AM   #2
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When DNA as evidence came online, "common sense" said people on death row would call for it left and right. In fact, very very few did, because the vast majority of cases were solid and it would just seal their fate even more.

So when someone on death row calls for it, they should get it, because they must know they are innocent. If they know they are guilty, evidence shows they will not ask for it.


This is why prosecutors and states are asses possible murderers for getting in the way of DNA requests.
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Old 2nd June 2012, 07:00 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Beerina View Post
When DNA as evidence came online, "common sense" said people on death row would call for it left and right. In fact, very very few did, because the vast majority of cases were solid and it would just seal their fate even more.

So when someone on death row calls for it, they should get it, because they must know they are innocent. If they know they are guilty, evidence shows they will not ask for it.


This is why prosecutors and states are asses possible murderers for getting in the way of DNA requests.
We totally agree on this.
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Old 2nd June 2012, 07:27 AM   #4
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a crooked road

The legal blog Simple Justice has covered the problems in finding the correct legal path to obtaining testing several times, including here and here:
"Yet the justices leave him [Skinner's lawyer] no choice. Consider the statements by Alito and Kennedy, apparently undisturbed by the big question as they grasp the details close to their chest. So what if an innocent man is executed, as long as you aren't abusing the generosity of §1983 to get around the limitations of §2255? These are two of the nine most powerful people in our tripartite government, and the potential execution of an innocent doesn't seem to register."
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Old 2nd June 2012, 08:58 AM   #5
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Currently Law and Justice tend to be complete strangers. Amazingly, this is coincident with conservative packed courts.
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Old 2nd June 2012, 12:46 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by halides1 View Post
The legal blog Simple Justice has covered the problems in finding the correct legal path to obtaining testing several times, including here and here:
"Yet the justices leave him [Skinner's lawyer] no choice. Consider the statements by Alito and Kennedy, apparently undisturbed by the big question as they grasp the details close to their chest. So what if an innocent man is executed, as long as you aren't abusing the generosity of §1983 to get around the limitations of §2255? These are two of the nine most powerful people in our tripartite government, and the potential execution of an innocent doesn't seem to register."

That's an absolute cracker. I may steal it. I'm sick and tired of hearing that a properly constituted court found someone guilty according to due process, and that's that. The fact that "due process" was a jackass doesn't seem to matter.

At least if new evidence is produced, it's something to bring to court. Revisiting an existing judgement on the grounds that the reasoning is batsqueak crazy doesn't seem to be allowed. Even new evidence is examined in the light of the original batsqueak crazy reasoning, and if it doesn't tear apart the faulty reasoning in just the right place, it may not prove to be enough.

And I agree with Beerina too. This is unusual, so make the most of it.

Rolfe.
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Old 2nd June 2012, 12:58 PM   #7
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I believe that in any capital case where there is un-impeachable DNA evidence, that evidence should be primary and required in conviction or exoneration.
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Old 2nd June 2012, 01:18 PM   #8
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The sad tragedy with this one, and the reason they're not inclined to give him the DNA testing, is they'll just say Hank Skinner just conspired with the (likely) actual murderer!

Quick overview off the top of my head: It was a New Year's Eve party (December 31st, 1993--I remember what I was doing that date myself!) and he'd passed out, having inadvertently imbibed a significant amount of codeine, which he was allergic to. Doctors testified he'd have been practically comatose with that amount in his system, (and he looked it too--there's pictures!) but they didn't have another suspect so they pretended that didn't matter.

Later on a more likely suspect was revealed, but said suspect killed himself in a drunken-driving accident so isn't alive to answer questions. Texas is claiming if the DNA comes back positive for that guy, it won't prove anything but that the guy who died must have conspired with Hank Skinner! Evidence against Hank Skinner? Outside the part they just made up (for a motive) it amounts to simply that he was there, passed out like the doctors said.
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Old 2nd June 2012, 01:50 PM   #9
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The jacket

Originally Posted by Kaosium View Post
Later on a more likely suspect was revealed, but said suspect killed himself in a drunken-driving accident so isn't alive to answer questions. Texas is claiming if the DNA comes back positive for that guy, it won't prove anything but that the guy who died must have conspired with Hank Skinner! Evidence against Hank Skinner? Outside the part they just made up (for a motive) it amounts to simply that he was there, passed out like the doctors said.
Kaosium,

Working from memory, his widow identified the jacket as looking like one of his. The suspect was seen washing out his truck on New Year's Day. Two of the victims were stabbed to death, and you don't test the knives? His court-appointed lawyer (who had left public office under a cloud) was paid something like $75,000, which was not typical for the county. I don't think that his first lawyer deliberately sabotaged Skinner's defense, but I don't think he tried very hard, either. The Skeptical Juror has a long series on this case.
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Old 2nd June 2012, 02:37 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Kaosium View Post
The sad tragedy with this one, and the reason they're not inclined to give him the DNA testing, is they'll just say Hank Skinner just conspired with the (likely) actual murderer!

Texas is claiming if the DNA comes back positive for that guy, it won't prove anything but that the guy who died must have conspired with Hank Skinner! Evidence against Hank Skinner? Outside the part they just made up (for a motive) it amounts to simply that he was there, passed out like the doctors said.

This sounds horribly familiar. Evidence which, if it had been considered by the original court in the first instance along with the rest of it would almost certainly have been enough to secure an acquittal, is waved aside on appeal on some pretext or other.

Appeals seem to start with a presumption of guilt. There really is a case for a complete do-over of the trial from a presumption of innocence (like in Italy but NOT the way they do it please....). A genuine re-trial.

The funny thing is, the "appeals" I've been involved in in English magistrates courts turned out actually to be complete de novo trials. Nobody looked at the previous trial, it was just, OK tell us all about it, once again. I never asked the right people what was going on there.

The scary thing even there, a magistrates' bench adjudicating on whether a dog owner had treated his dog's arthritis as prescribed by the vet, was the palpable presumption of guilt on the part of the magistrates. Judgemental sanctimonious pompous posers, the lot of them.

Rolfe.
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Old 2nd June 2012, 03:22 PM   #11
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conspiracies

Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Appeals seem to start with a presumption of guilt. There really is a case for a complete do-over of the trial from a presumption of innocence (like in Italy but NOT the way they do it please....). A genuine re-trial.
Rolfe,

I agree. What was said here about Billy Wayne Cope's false confession is apropos. "The presumption of regularity is a convicted felon’s worse nightmare. An accused is innocent until proven guilty-but only before trial. Once convicted, the presumption of innocence is replaced with the presumption of guilt. Reviewing courts assume that the underlying proceeding was conducted in a fair manner and in accordance with the law. The jury’s verdict is near sacrosanct and rarely disturbed on appeal or in any subsequent proceeding. The problem is that sometimes juries make mistakes. Lies are sometimes believed; the truth, likewise, is occasionally obscured or ignored. The appellate courts are not designed to correct this type of error and will rarely substitute their judgment with that of the jury’s. Unfortunately, when errors of this sort are made, the wrongfully convicted have little recourse." In the Cope case the DNA evidence points to James Sanders, and the prosecutors invented a conspiracy between Cope and Sanders. Therefore, a fear that the prosecution will invent a conspiracy between Hank Skinner and his girlfriend's uncle (the man who died in the auto accident) is well-founded, unfortunately.
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Old 4th June 2012, 02:14 PM   #12
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The Rudy Guede defense...

"I was right there in the room as the murders were happening. I fled the scene and hid from police afterwards. But don't let that fool you, I'm really innocent. Emmis! It was a bad man who crawled in the window who actually committed the crime". In the case of Skinner, he'd have you believe the real killer was a senior citizen midget. Nice touch.

It's a pity that triple murderers like Hank Skinner get the chance to burn up limited resources that could be better directed to cases where there:

a) is some legitimate doubt about guilt
b) where the testing has some reasonable prospect of clarifying the matter

Neither applies here. But the squeaky wheel gets the grease, I suppose.
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Old 4th June 2012, 02:36 PM   #13
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The way I see it, if you have evidence that implicates one person, and it is good evidence--good enough to convince a grand jury, good enough to convince a judge, and good enough to convince a jury...

... Then DNA from another person can only implicate another person. It can't exonerate the first person. It can't make all that other evidence go away, or not mean anything. The first person is still implicated by all that good evidence.

So when it comes to post-trial DNA evidence, we're really just talking about a few fringe cases where a) the evidence implicating the first person really wasn't all that good, and b) DNA from someone else really does somehow exonerate the first person.

For example, if seventeen credible witnesses all swore they saw the whole thing and there was only one rapist, and circumstantial evidence implicates one person, but DNA taken from the sperm sample implicates another person.
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Old 4th June 2012, 03:04 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The way I see it, if you have evidence that implicates one person, and it is good evidence--good enough to convince a grand jury, good enough to convince a judge, and good enough to convince a jury...

... Then DNA from another person can only implicate another person. It can't exonerate the first person. It can't make all that other evidence go away, or not mean anything. The first person is still implicated by all that good evidence.

So when it comes to post-trial DNA evidence, we're really just talking about a few fringe cases where a) the evidence implicating the first person really wasn't all that good, and b) DNA from someone else really does somehow exonerate the first person.

For example, if seventeen credible witnesses all swore they saw the whole thing and there was only one rapist, and circumstantial evidence implicates one person, but DNA taken from the sperm sample implicates another person.
If the evidence was blood or semen, and if that evidence was significant to the jury, and if the blood type matched and was presented to the jury, but when the blood or semen was sequenced it was some other person's, then at the very least you need to re-try without that evidence, or if that evidence is brought in, you need to be able to show that the crime was in concert with a second person.
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Old 4th June 2012, 03:10 PM   #15
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I have no problem with people on death row burning up resources. Waste is not important compared to a mistake. It's also small overall in the prison/prosecution budget.


"Oops, we killed someone innocent. Ah, well. At least we saved a few million out of billions."

Is that an acceptable thought?


I know he could be gaming the system. But probably not, for reasons I stated. He would know if his DNA would be on the knives or in the hair in her hands or under her nails.

So therefore he knows it isn't. Why? Is it the dead retired midget's?

Suppose it is. Who cares what he'd have you believe -- test it.
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Old 4th June 2012, 04:01 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The way I see it, if you have evidence that implicates one person, and it is good evidence--good enough to convince a grand jury, good enough to convince a judge, and good enough to convince a jury...

... Then DNA from another person can only implicate another person. It can't exonerate the first person. It can't make all that other evidence go away, or not mean anything. The first person is still implicated by all that good evidence.

So when it comes to post-trial DNA evidence, we're really just talking about a few fringe cases where a) the evidence implicating the first person really wasn't all that good, and b) DNA from someone else really does somehow exonerate the first person.

For example, if seventeen credible witnesses all swore they saw the whole thing and there was only one rapist, and circumstantial evidence implicates one person, but DNA taken from the sperm sample implicates another person.

I don't know if Hank Skinner is innocent or guilty, but I see no reason not to do DNA testing on all the evidence before killing the man.

One thing to be weary of in this case is a recanted testimony from his ex-girlfriend. Here is the copy of the affidavit: http://www.injustice-anywhere.org/Reed.pdf . The National Registry of Exonorations has found that perjury or false accusation has been a factor in 51% of wrongful convictions. That alone should set off a warning bell about this case. http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exo...12_summary.pdf

The amount of evidence in this case that has NOT been tested at all is quite large.

Quote:
The evidence that has been left untested or completely ignored is shocking. It was never revealed at trial that two of the murder weapons could not be traced to Skinner. Bloody fingerprints found on a pick ax handle and knife did not belong to Skinner, yet they were not discussed at trial. A second knife was also recovered from the scene, along with a bloody towel and jacket. None of these items have been tested.

Blood and skin were found under the fingernails of Busby indicating that she put up a fight. Tests were never conducted on Busby's fingernail clippings. Hair found in Busby's hands along with vaginal swabs taken at the time of her autopsy have also never been tested.

There is also another suspect. The victim's uncle, Robert Donnell. According to eyewitness reports, Twila Busby had been harassed at a New Year's eve party by Donnell shortly before she was murdered. Another witness also said the untested jacket looks like one her uncle owned.

I think you are definitely wrong that if the evidence was good enough to convince a judge and jury it has to be 100% solid. That is an idealized view of the justice system. It simply is not true.

If DNA testing is done and comes back with her Uncle or an unknown males DNA on the items and none of Hank Skinner's I think it is possible his conviction could be overturned.

If you look at another Texan case, that of Michael Morton, he requested DNA testing be done on a bloody bandana found at the crime scene. After years of denial it was finally approved and completely exonorated him when the bandana came back with DNA of another man who had gone on to kill yet another woman. The DA John Bradley who denied the DNA testing for years was just booted out of office by voters based largely on his actions. The Prosecutor in the case also withheld evidence from the defense.

I'm very pleased that the court is going to do the DNA testing before executing Hank Skinner.
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Old 4th June 2012, 05:24 PM   #17
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Hank Skinner is not Rudy Guede

Originally Posted by lane99 View Post
"I was right there in the room as the murders were happening. I fled the scene and hid from police afterwards. But don't let that fool you, I'm really innocent. Emmis! It was a bad man who crawled in the window who actually committed the crime". In the case of Skinner, he'd have you believe the real killer was a senior citizen midget. Nice touch.

It's a pity that triple murderers like Hank Skinner get the chance to burn up limited resources that could be better directed to cases where there:

a) is some legitimate doubt about guilt
b) where the testing has some reasonable prospect of clarifying the matter

Neither applies here. But the squeaky wheel gets the grease, I suppose.
lane99,

Hank had a reason to be at Twila’s home on the night of the murders, but Rudy Guede had no business being at Meredith’s flat. IIRC Hank had her blood on him, but so did Elwin, one of her sons. I have heard various accounts of how big Robert Donnell was; one description of him is large and another is that he was 5' 0' (I never heard that he was a midget before). I think he was 63 years old, but to the best of my knowledge it is not disputed that he was handy with a knife, and some say he was…um…overly fond of his niece.

Mr. Skinner is supposed to have flown into a homicidal rage when someone gave his girlfriend a goodnight kiss, hardly a convincing motive. Earlier in the evening Howard Mitchell had tried to rouse him, but Skinner was out cold from the vodka and codeine. He was estimated to have a BAC of 0.21% at the time of the murders, not counting the effect of the codeine. Given this information, it is hard to see how he could have killed three people. One of the witnesses against him recanted. His attorney had been a former prosecutor who prosecuted Skinner previously. The attorney was paid $86,000 to defend him, a very unusual sum by Texas standards. I am not saying that his attorney tried to sabotage his case, but I am saying that his attorney made an extremely poor decision to override Hank’s wishes about testing the items in question.

The Skeptical Juror wrote, “Whoever put the items in the trash bag left a bloody handprint on the bag. That print was tested against Hank Skinner but not against Robert Donnell. Since the print did not belong to Hank Skinner, he was almost certainly not the person who wiped down that bloody knife with that dishtowel.”
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Old 5th June 2012, 02:07 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Draca View Post
I think you are definitely wrong that if the evidence was good enough to convince a judge and jury it has to be 100% solid. That is an idealized view of the justice system. It simply is not true.

That definitely needs repeating. If there is important evidence the jury (and judge) were not aware of at the original trial, how can anyone declare that that evidence wouldn't have altered their view of a case? How often in normal life do we come to what we consider a pretty certain view about something, only to find out more information and declare, "well, if I'd only known that...."?

Happens all the time. That's why the switch to the presumption of guilt at an appeal is so pernicious. There may be evidence which would have tipped the balance well into the "reasonable doubt" category when viewed with a presumption of innocence, which nevertheless is dismissed as not weighty enough to reverse the decision when viewed from a presumption of guilt. I suspect that happens quite often in appeals.

Rolfe.
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Old 6th June 2012, 11:35 AM   #19
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Par for the course

Originally Posted by halides1 View Post
...The Skeptical Juror wrote, “Whoever put the items in the trash bag left a bloody handprint on the bag...Since the print did not belong to Hank Skinner, he was almost certainly not the person who wiped down that bloody knife with that dishtowel.”
I'm glad you choose to highlight this one particular point. As it amply illustrates how deceitful Hank Skinner and his supporters are.

There is NO bloody handprint on the trash bag. That's nothing but a shameless lie. And simply the sort of dishonesty that guilty people and their patrons resort to when the truth ain't working out so well for them.

Now, speaking of the truth: though not on the trash bag, there were indeed a number of bloody prints found throughout the crime scene that were matched to one particular individual. Care to guess who that individual is? No, I didn't think you would.
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Old 6th June 2012, 12:03 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by lane99 View Post
I'm glad you choose to highlight this one particular point. As it amply illustrates how deceitful Hank Skinner and his supporters are.

There is NO bloody handprint on the trash bag. That's nothing but a shameless lie. And simply the sort of dishonesty that guilty people and their patrons resort to when the truth ain't working out so well for them.

Now, speaking of the truth: though not on the trash bag, there were indeed a number of bloody prints found throughout the crime scene that were matched to one particular individual. Care to guess who that individual is? No, I didn't think you would.
Did you testify at the trial?
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Old 6th June 2012, 01:20 PM   #21
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tunnel vision again

Originally Posted by lane99 View Post
I'm glad you choose to highlight this one particular point. As it amply illustrates how deceitful Hank Skinner and his supporters are.

There is NO bloody handprint on the trash bag. That's nothing but a shameless lie. And simply the sort of dishonesty that guilty people and their patrons resort to when the truth ain't working out so well for them.

Now, speaking of the truth: though not on the trash bag, there were indeed a number of bloody prints found throughout the crime scene that were matched to one particular individual. Care to guess who that individual is? No, I didn't think you would.
lane99,

Good to hear from you, as always. Can you find a source for your claim? Skinner's website said, "There were numerous hand-prints around the house. Two (subsequently identified as Hank's) were found, 24 inches (two feet) and 30 inches from the floor respectively, on the door to the bathroom/washer-dryer room. Leading out of the house, two hand-prints were found on and near the door leading from the kitchen to the utility room at the rear of the house; one was subsequently identified as belonging to Hank, the other was never identified, but was assumed to be his for the purposes of the trial. On the door leading outside, another print was found and identified as Hank's."

Skinner and his supporters suggested that the print investigation was half-hearted due to tunnel-vision: "From the Statement of Testimony filed by Steven C. Losch, the attorney representing Hank for his Direct Appeal, 'Unnasch believed that a search of the crime scene for latent prints that were not made in blood could have produced important evidence, but he did not collect it because the Pampa police did not ask him to do so. Unnasch was also not asked to compare appellant's handprint to the apparent latent bloody handprint that Burroughs saw on Twila Busby's left forearm.'" (highlighting mine)

From this same site: "Additionally, the Statement of testimony observes that 'There were no fingerprints on the knives, but Unnasch [Glenn Unnasch, Dept Public Safety latent fingerprint examiner] found a handprint on the black bag that was not made by the appellant [Hank Skinner]. The Pampa Police asked Department of Public Safety criminalist Gary Stallings to determine whether the brown stain on the towel ....was human blood. Stallings did not perform that test or test the knife in the bag for blood.'" If one only looks for Skinner's prints, it is not surprising that that is all one finds. Sound familiar? I thought so.

Radley Balko reported, "'They only tested the material they thought would implicate Skinner,' Protess told me via phone. 'They fixated on their suspect, and once they thought they had enough for a conviction, they stopped.'" The hair in Twila's hand did not match Skinner (tested by mitochondrial DNA forensics). If Uncle Robert's DNA turned up on the jacket, what would you conclude? If Twila's blood is on the jacket, what would you conclude? If Uncle Robert's DNA or prints turned up on the knives, what would you conclude?
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Old 13th June 2012, 12:10 PM   #22
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Windbreaker evidence missing

Evidence the Hank Skinner defense wanted DNA tested is now missing. Police can give no explanation.

"Among the key pieces of evidence never before tested, and that Skinner has sought access to for more than a decade, is a blood- and sweat-stained windbreaker found near the body of his girlfriend Twila Busby. The windbreak is now apparently missing."

http://www.austinchronicle.com/blogs...-skinner-case/
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Old 13th June 2012, 12:23 PM   #23
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the missing windbreaker

Originally Posted by Draca View Post
Evidence the Hank Skinner defense wanted DNA tested is now missing. Police can give no explanation.

"Among the key pieces of evidence never before tested, and that Skinner has sought access to for more than a decade, is a blood- and sweat-stained windbreaker found near the body of his girlfriend Twila Busby. The windbreak is now apparently missing."

http://www.austinchronicle.com/blogs...-skinner-case/
Oh My Goodness. There are some choice words I could use to describe my feelings, but even they would be unable to really convey the revulsion I feel toward those responsible for "losing" this key piece of evidence. Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence, I suppose, but this is pushing it.
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Old 14th June 2012, 01:28 AM   #24
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They lost the jacket and just noticed now?
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Old 14th June 2012, 05:57 AM   #25
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knives

Originally Posted by Kaosium View Post
They lost the jacket and just noticed now?
kaosium,

Even without DNA or other forensic testing, the jacket is still a small piece of exculpatory evidence. It was identified as being like one that the uncle wore, and it has no business being there. I wonder why there are two knives. Could one of them have been used by one of Twila's sons? Both handles should be tested for DNA.
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Old 14th June 2012, 03:24 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by halides1 View Post
kaosium,

Even without DNA or other forensic testing, the jacket is still a small piece of exculpatory evidence. It was identified as being like one that the uncle wore, and it has no business being there. I wonder why there are two knives. Could one of them have been used by one of Twila's sons? Both handles should be tested for DNA.
Ah, I see they have a photograph of Robert Donnell wearing the jacket, so there's more than just that witness statement. It being there bloodied up is certainly suggestive of Donnell being there during the murder, but if they have the other DNA evidence to test the witness statement and the photograph ought to corroborate his presence as well. I also see from a closer examination that they'd noticed this years back, it was reading that just after the Supreme Court decision that it was realized it was missing didn't seem to make much sense.

Two knives, one possibly used by a son in defense?
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Old 14th June 2012, 03:36 PM   #27
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whose blood is it

Originally Posted by Kaosium View Post
Two knives, one possibly used by a son in defense?
One wonders if Uncle Robert's blood is on one of the knives.
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Old 14th June 2012, 03:53 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by halides1 View Post
Oh My Goodness. There are some choice words I could use to describe my feelings, but even they would be unable to really convey the revulsion I feel toward those responsible for "losing" this key piece of evidence. Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence, I suppose, but this is pushing it.
In any large storage system things go missing. A lot. Really all it takes is a tag to fall off or something to be put back on the wrong shelf and it might as well be gone forever. Throw in movements between archives and yeah there is a lot of missing stuff out there.

The most extreme example I'm aware of would be Hull city council who managed to lose a body for 13 years:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/no...d-wrong-person
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Old 14th June 2012, 03:55 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Beerina View Post
When DNA as evidence came online, "common sense" said people on death row would call for it left and right. In fact, very very few did, because the vast majority of cases were solid and it would just seal their fate even more.

So when someone on death row calls for it, they should get it, because they must know they are innocent. If they know they are guilty, evidence shows they will not ask for it.
There have been a few cases where the DNA test came back posertive. But it isn't that expensive to run a test so the risk of firming up the odd conviction isn't too much of a problem.
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Old 14th June 2012, 03:58 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
That definitely needs repeating. If there is important evidence the jury (and judge) were not aware of at the original trial, how can anyone declare that that evidence wouldn't have altered their view of a case? How often in normal life do we come to what we consider a pretty certain view about something, only to find out more information and declare, "well, if I'd only known that...."?

Happens all the time. That's why the switch to the presumption of guilt at an appeal is so pernicious. There may be evidence which would have tipped the balance well into the "reasonable doubt" category when viewed with a presumption of innocence, which nevertheless is dismissed as not weighty enough to reverse the decision when viewed from a presumption of guilt. I suspect that happens quite often in appeals.
Appeals for that very reason tend towards legal technicalities so I doubt it.

The problem is that trials are seriously expensive and time consuming so appeal court judges really want to avoid there being more of them.
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Old 14th June 2012, 04:29 PM   #31
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Too true. The stern-faced presumption of guilt in appeal trials is seriously frightening. Never forget that Sally Clark lost her first appeal.

If there is one tragedy that should never be forgotten in discussions like this, it's hers.

Rolfe.
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Old 14th June 2012, 04:37 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Too true. The stern-faced presumption of guilt in appeal trials is seriously frightening. Never forget that Sally Clark lost her first appeal.

If there is one tragedy that should never be forgotten in discussions like this, it's hers.

Rolfe.
They got caught by a rogue expert witness. That probably isn't common enough to be worth designing a legal system around.
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Old 14th June 2012, 05:46 PM   #33
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I seriously disagree. Look at the Amanda Knox case - that was very much contributed to by a dishonest forensic scientist. And Meadows is far from unique. Sion Jenkins was hung out to dry by David Southall, who subsequently featured quite ingloriously in the Clark saga too.

I've been an expert witness, and listened to others. I've been shocked by how frequently such people will distort the facts and the balance of opinion to try to get a "win" for their side. I've been lectured to by a Procurator Fiscal who pretty much indicated she expected it.

This is actually becoming recognised. There is now training and registration for expert witnesses. But there is still a long way to go, because the starting point was pretty much anything goes. (Fancy you can identify people by ear prints? Set yourself up as an "ear print expert" and the prosecution will call you if you say what they want to hear.) The idea that fingerprint evidence was merely "expert opinion" rather than fact is a very recent one, and it was anathema at the time of the Shirley McKie case.

In fact, I could go on an on about the problem of expert witnesses playing for the home team to an absolutely flagrant extent, but I'm going to bed now. Trust me, it's a major problem and has put away a significant number of innocent people. Even Meadow managed three with the identical technique before the fourth jury stopped and thought, "where have we heard this before...."

Rolfe.
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Old 14th June 2012, 07:48 PM   #34
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forensic fraud

Originally Posted by geni View Post
They got caught by a rogue expert witness. That probably isn't common enough to be worth designing a legal system around.
There are expert witnesses who seem to make a career of fraud. I am thinking of Louise Robbins and Joyce Gilchrist, among others. I seem to recall that the fire marshall who testified against Todd Willingham had investigated 1200 fires, all of which were arson, according to him.

A somewhat related problem is that of forensic personnel who tell law enforcement what they want to hear, not what the truth is. The North Carolina SBI laboratory has gone through a major overhaul after the Gregory Taylor case and a subsequent audit. It is possible t consider Duane Deaver to be a rogue agent who misreported the results of blood tests, among other things. But having read what others in the lab have had to say, I put the blame on the supervision of the lab. My solutions are to split forensic laboratories away from law enforcement and to provide indigent defendants with a forensic counsel.
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Old 14th June 2012, 07:50 PM   #35
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Only the windbreaker, as far as I know

Originally Posted by geni View Post
In any large storage system things go missing. A lot.
Fair enough but some of the evidence has not gone missing.
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Old 15th June 2012, 07:15 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
They got caught by a rogue expert witness. That probably isn't common enough to be worth designing a legal system around.

Two threads on roughly the same subject.

http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?postid=8372723

Rolfe.
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Old 15th June 2012, 09:13 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
They got caught by a rogue expert witness. That probably isn't common enough to be worth designing a legal system around.
I disagree. I've testified as an expert witness and have seen supposed experts behave in a manner that should have attracted criminal charges; in one case I called a prosecution witness a liar, while she was in the court, and went on to state why the work she'd supposedly done could not have given the results she claimed. It wasn't a matter of those particular circumstances, she had allegedly tested a scenario that simply wasn't possible.
Not long after that I was waiting to give evidence in a different case when I heard a witness (in an unrelated case, I was waiting to talk to a lawyer) state something that he either knew was a lie or demonstrated utter incompetence. I contacted the prosecution to tell them I would be giving a detailed rebuttal to defending counsel and making the matter public.
The case was abandoned that day.

The problem is most legal systems don't have any mechanism to properly verify expert testimony and to allow it to be subject to proper corroboration. And the barristers.........................
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Old 16th June 2012, 08:21 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Kaosium View Post
They lost the jacket and just noticed now?
Well, they probably couldn't notice it missing a few days ago because it wasn't missing a few days ago.

Anyone wanna take that bet?
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The government should nationalize it! Socialized, single-payer video game development and sales now! More, cheaper, better games, right? Right?
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Old 9th July 2012, 09:58 AM   #39
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why the jacket was important

David Protess at the Huffington Post reports on a witness who recalls seeing the uncle wearing the jacket in question, but not after the crime.
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Old 9th July 2012, 10:56 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by fuelair View Post
Currently Law and Justice tend to be complete strangers. Amazingly, this is coincident with conservative packed courts.
Nobody's hands are clean.

...the law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 that bars federal courts from overturning state convictions or sentences unless the state proceeding “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly establish federal law as determined by the Supreme Court.” The law is aimed at cutting the time between sentencing and executions in capital punishment cases, and restricting the authority of federal courts to grant petitions of habeas corpus, which contend that convictions have violated federally protected rights. There are currently more than 3,500 prisoners on the nation's death row, and 627 people have been put to death since the Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty in 1976.
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/apr2000/dp-a21.shtml

The high court voted 5 to 4 that federal judges must defer to a state court decision, even one they regard as incorrect, as long as the decision was not “unreasonable.”
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