Houston serial killer Anthony Shore faces another death date, this one Jan. 18. Shore was originally set for execution in October, but that got halted by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office amid rumors he was planning to confess to another murder: the 1998 killing of Melissa Trotter. Except Larry Swearingen had been convicted of kidnapping, raping, and strangling Trotter in 2000, and by then was preparing for his own execution in November.
Assistant District Attorney Tom Berg said his office revoked Shore’s execution warrant at the request of Montgomery County D.A. Brett Ligon, who believed Shore was colluding with Swearingen. (He says a folder was found in Shore’s cell with information relating to Trotter’s death.) Berg said the Texas Rangers have since interviewed Shore, who admitted he had “nothing to do” with Trotter’s murder. Shore alleged he and Swearingen once contemplated conspiring, but had since “parted ways.” Berg, who says his office and Ligon’s have reviewed the interview, said Shore decided not to “take the fall” for his fellow inmate. Shore has exhausted his appeals; Berg said he’s unaware of any new attempts to stay Shore’s execution, and concluded that his case will see its “inevitable end” next Thursday.
Shore’s execution is just the beginning of a busy month.
Swearingen, however, had his November execution stayed due to a filing error, and has since been granted additional DNA testing. Unlike Shore, who confessed to killing four girls between 1986 and 1995, Swearingen has maintained his innocence. His supporters, including his lawyer James Rytting, say he was in a county jail for outstanding traffic warrants at the time of Trotter’s murder. The 19-year-old was last seen on Dec. 8, 1998, with Swearingen (who wasn’t arrested until three days later), but her body wasn’t discovered until Jan. 2. Rytting said forensic evidence suggests her body could not have been dumped in the woods until “a week or 10 days” after Swearingen was arrested.
Included in the evidence sent out for testing is Trotter’s rape kit, which was never tested and could exonerate Swearingen should analysts uncover another DNA profile. Samples of hair particles found on Trotter’s undergarments and the alleged murder weapon (a torn pair of pantyhose) will also be tested. The evidence was shipped out in December and testing will likely take four weeks.
Rytting was alarmed that the state had reissued an execution date for Shore. “They shouldn’t be putting the guy into the ground with these questions still around,” he said. He says two witnesses, with no connection to Swearingen, told the D.A.’s Office that Shore suggested to them that he was connected to Trotter’s murder. The information, Rytting said, would “sure as hell” make Shore a suspect had it been provided prior to Swearingen’s conviction. “It’s a type of incriminating statement the prosecution seizes on all the time,” he said. “You don’t get to wiggle out of it with an ‘Aw shucks, I was kidding.'”
Shore will likely mark the first state-sanctioned killing of 2018, and his is just the beginning. William Rayford is scheduled for Jan. 30, and John Battaglia for Feb. 1.
From his small cell on California’s death row, Scott Pinholster swore he could prove his innocence. The proof, he said, was in the dried blood on a work boot and a pink towel recovered from his home years ago.
The condemned inmate insisted that modern DNA testing — nonexistent when he was convicted of a double murder in 1984 — would show the blood belonged to him, not the victims, as the prosecution argued at his trial.
But a recent search for the items has led to a disturbing discovery that could throw the case into jeopardy: The Los Angeles County courts mistakenly destroyed the evidence.
A judge must now determine what, if anything, should be done to remedy the high-stakes error.
Pinholster’s attorney has asked for a hearing on how the destruction happened and says he will eventually ask for a new trial. Prosecutors, however, argue that a killer’s life shouldn’t be spared simply because of an innocent mistake by court staff.
One of the jurors who voted to send Pinholster to death row more than three decades ago was shocked to hear that the man convicted of fatally stabbing and beating two men might get a second chance.
“Oh my God!” said the juror, who spoke on condition of anonymity, when recently contacted by The Times. “He’s liable to get off then?”
Pinholster is one of 744 people awaiting execution in California — the largest death row population in the country. Although the state hasn’t put anyone to death since 2006, that could soon change, as voters passed a measure last year to speed up the process. Of the state’s condemned inmates, about 20 have exhausted their appeals, putting them at the front of the line. Among them is Pinholster.
California law requires that courts keep evidence until after a death row inmate is executed or dies behind bars — a safeguard put in place to preserve evidence for future testing. Mary Hearn, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Superior Court, said the court’s procedure for destroying evidence, which was updated last year, now requires that staff first contact California’s Supreme Court to confirm a death row inmate has died. The court, Hearn said, began a review of its procedure before learning of Pinholster’s case.
Hearn said Pinholster, 58, is the only known example of evidence destruction in a case of a living death row inmate convicted in L.A. County. But a small number of cases around the country have raised similar legal problems.
On the eve of an execution in 2005, Virginia’s governor reduced a condemned death row inmate’s sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole after learning that a court clerk had destroyed evidence in his murder case despite being warned by subordinates not to do so. Two years later, a man on death row in Oklahoma was released from prison after a judge ruled that a police lab analyst had intentionally destroyed hair evidence that could have pointed to the inmate’s innocence.
Elisabeth Semel, a UC Berkeley law professor who directs the school’s clinic that defends condemned inmates facing execution, said destruction of physical evidence cripples the ability to examine an inmate’s innocence claim.
“If the very evidence you need is gone … how do you make justice happen for these individuals?” she said, describing the scenario as “terribly, terribly devastating.”
The importance of such tests was highlighted last month when Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned a prisoner who spent 39 years behind bars for the 1978 killing of a young woman and her 4-year-old son in Simi Valley. After the prisoner, Craig Coley, exhausted his appeals years ago, a judge authorized the destruction of the crime-scene evidence. But a cold-case detective recently found the evidence and when tested, it helped clear Coley of the murders.
For Pinholster, prosecutors point to a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision that makes it difficult for prisoners to reverse convictions or reduce sentences unless they can show that evidence was destroyed in “bad faith.” In Pinholster’s case, prosecutors argue, the destruction was the result of “at most negligence, incompetency, recklessness,” but not “bad faith.”
At his trial, a prosecutor argued that the blood on the boot and towel found in the defendant’s Van Nuys apartment belonged to at least one of the two victims — Thomas Johnson, 25, and Robert Beckett, 29. The men were stabbed and beaten to death at the Tarzana home of a marijuana dealer on Jan. 9, 1982.
The state’s key witness, Art Corona, told police that he, Pinholster and a third man, Paul Brown, were all armed with buck knives when they barreled into the home looking to steal drugs and cash. Minutes later, Corona said, the two victims showed up. Pinholster attacked the men with a knife, his fists and his feet, Corona said, adding that Brown also stabbed one of the men.
Their loot: $23 and a quarter-ounce of pot.
Pinholster said he had stolen drugs from the home a few hours before the killings but never harmed anyone. When he took the stand, he seemed to revel in his criminal record. Asked for his occupation, he smirked and responded, “a crook,” according to court documents. He also boasted to jurors of having committed hundreds of robberies, but insisted he’d always carried guns, not knives.
A Sheriff’s Department criminalist told jurors that he’d tested the right work boot and towel collected from Pinholster’s home and found they came back positive for human blood, but technology at the time couldn’t narrow down whose blood it was. The prosecutor suggested that Pinholster had stepped in a pool of blood at the Tarzana home and used the towel to wipe off the murder weapon.
Neither Pinholster nor his attorney argued at trial that the blood was from him — an omission the district attorney’s office said undercuts his current claim. His new attorney said Pinholster was never asked during the trial who the blood belonged to.
Contacted recently, another juror who asked to be identified only as a 76-year-old woman said she was confident in the verdict.
“He was absolutely guilty,” she said. “No question.”
Even after three decades, she said, she can conjure a haunting memory of an image painted at trial by the prosecutor — Pinholster, wearing boots, kicking in the skull of one of the victims.
After his conviction, state courts rejected appeals from Pinholster, but a federal judge overturned the death sentence in 2003, ruling that his trial counsel had failed to tell jurors about the extent of Pinholster’s mental health problems. In 2011, however, the U.S. Supreme Court restored Pinholster’s death sentence.
“He’s been very discouraged,” said Sean Kennedy, Pinholster’s current lawyer.
But months after having his death penalty restored, the inmate got good news. A judge had finally approved his request to have DNA testing done on the towel and boot. Pinholster contends that the bloodstains came from his repeated intravenous use of heroin.
A Los Angeles police officer was assigned to scour an LAPD storage room for the items in case the court had returned them after the trial. The search came up empty, so officers checked inside another police storage facility. Still nothing. As the hunt stretched into a fourth year, Kennedy grew suspicious. Finally, a prosecutor stepped in to help speed up the process.
“And that,” Kennedy said, with a shake of his head, “is when they finally fessed up.”
Court documents from January 1998 show that People vs. Pinholster was mistakenly listed among more than a dozen cases deemed eligible for evidence destruction. The trial exhibits, records show, were destroyed that summer. Two top Los Angeles County Superior Court officials signed the destruction order — Judge John Reid and Ty Colgrove, an administrator who helped run the court’s criminal operations. Both men have since retired.
Reached for comment, Colgrove said he didn’t recall the case, as he’d signed hundreds of destruction orders over the years, but added that he relied on lower-level employees to properly sort through the cases.
Hearn, the court spokeswoman, said Reid could not comment, as he still sometimes fills in on the bench. In a recently signed declaration, Reid wrote that if he’d known the evidence from a capital case was going to be destroyed, he “would not have signed the order.”
Kennedy, an associate clinical professor at Loyola Law School whose work on Pinholster’s case carried over from his days as the federal public defender for the Central District of California, bristled at the rationale.
“It’s almost like the judiciary is facilitating wrongful executions,” he said.
Life on death row has worn on Pinholster. Last year, as California voters weighed two options — speeding up executions or banning the death penalty — Pinholster was quoted in a Times article, expressing apathy.
“After 30 years,” he said, “you don’t care one way or the other.”
But there’s still some hope for his exoneration, Kennedy said, pointing to trial exhibit 29 — a pair of bloodstained jeans also recovered from Pinholster’s home years ago. While court employees have said they presume the jeans are lost or destroyed, they haven’t found any documents showing they were, in fact, discarded.
Kennedy has asked for a special hearing so he can question the court officials who approved the destruction. A judge is expected to rule on that request early next year.
For Michael Kumar, the former marijuana dealer who lived at the home where the killings took place, the mention of Pinholster brings a rush of memories. Although he’d been out of town the weekend of the murders, the pain is still raw over the loss of Johnson, his best friend — a gentle giant who loved to play classical piano. When asked about the possibility of a new trial, Kumar sighed.
“It’s preposterous to me…. It’s completely a joke if this guy says he’s innocent,” said Kumar, 58, who now sells parts for and restores classic cars. “I’m not going to say he doesn’t have the right, because I’m not sure what the technicalities are, but it’s just that — a technicality.”
The scheduled execution date for Joe Franco Garza has been withdrawn.
Garza was scheduled for execution on September 2. He was found guilty of the 1998 murder of Silbiano Rangel and sentenced to death.
There is an agreed order that said his execution would be stayed while more DNA testing is completed.
The Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney’s Office and Garza’s attorneys both agreed to this, according to court records.
The agreed order states that a number of pieces of evidence, including clothing, fingernails, and hair among others, be tested.
“It’s not an admission by the DA’s office that he’s entitled to relief,” David Guinn, a Lubbock criminal defense attorney, said. “It’s a good thing for the court to do. As a matter of fact, it takes a smart judge with a lot of courage to stop an execution date, but in light of recent scientific revelations and material, why not be safe? Why not make sure?”
Guinn added, “If he’s a bad guy he’s not going anywhere, and if we get it wrong, well, thank goodness for justice.”
“Several pieces of physical evidence are going to be evaluated by the lab. Both parties agreed to that as set forth in the order, and that the results of that testing will come back to Mr. Garza’s attorneys, and the State of Texas,” Guinn said. “And when they get that back, they’ll look at it and decide what to do next.”
Attorneys for convicted killer Larry Ray Swearingen filed opposition to the state’s motion to set an execution date, arguing the Court of Criminal Appeals remanded the case for further proceedings.
A motion was filed in early March with the state of Texas for a tentative execution date of April 24. However, Swearingen “respectfully” requested a hearing in the 9th state District Court of Judge Kelly Case the week of May 12.
That hearing, if approved, would consider the effect of the appeals court’s remand on DNA testing, as well as the state’s request for an execution date, said James Rytting, Swearingen’s attorney.
“If they (the CCA) wanted to issue an execution date they could have established one by themselves,” Rytting said.
Swearingen was convicted for the murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter. She was last seen leaving the Montgomery College campus with Swearingen on Dec. 8, 1998. Her body was found by hunters in the Sam Houston National Forest Jan. 2, 1999, north of Lake Conroe.
Trotter’s death was determined to be a homicide, and that she was sexually assaulted then strangled by piece of pantyhose.
Bill Delmore, appellate attorney with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, said Swearingen’s attorneys have started “grasping at straws.”
In their opposition to the state’s request for an execution date, Swearingen’s attorneys contend where the Court of Criminal Appeals has remanded the case for additional proceedings, it “would be an abuse of discretion” to ignore the “plain language” of the opinion issued by the appellate court in this case and instead set an execution date.
However, Delmore said Swearingen’s case was remanded back to the district court in Montgomery County to deny future requests for DNA testing, and to set an execution date.
A briefing schedule for both parties regarding the effect of the appeals court’s remand was suggested by Rytting on or before May 2.
James Bain’s case is unique. Not because he was wrongly convicted and freed by DNA evidence, overturning the entire case that convicted him. No, that stuff is commonplace now. What makes James unique is that he has the distinction of having served the longest amount of time behind bars who was ultimately freed on DNA evidence. And this highlights a huge problem. James was denied his requests for testing for years, saying that he had waited too long. It wasn’t until Florida passed a new law that allowed cases to be reopened for DNA testing that his fifth and final rejection was overturned on appeal, which led to his freedom. Such laws should be on the books in every state, no questions.
One night in 1974 in Lake Wales, Florida, someone broke into a home and took a 9 year old boy out of his bed to a local baseball diamond where the boy was raped. By the time he returned home, the police were already present. The victim described the perpetrator as between 17-18, whose name was Jim and who had a mustache and sideburns. The victim’s uncle, a principal at James’s school volunteered that that description fit James Bain. From that point forward the victim always referred to the rapist as ‘Bain’. The police went to Bain’s house where they found him. He had been home with his sister since approximately 10:30pm after attending a party and had fallen asleep watching television.
For the official identification of the perpetrator, the police arranged a photo lineup including Bain and only one other man with a mustache and sideburns! This does not make for an impartial identification. Not only that, according to the Florida Innocence Project, the police suggestively and improperly instructed the victim to pick out Bain’s photo (not the photo of the person who assaulted him) which the victim did.
The case against Bain consisted mainly of the victim identification and the Serology findings from the victim’s underwear. Regarding the Serology findings, FBI Analyst William Gavin stated that the findings showed a blood group B and that Bain was AB with a weak A. Conversely, the expert for the Defense, Richard Jones testified that Bain was AB with a strong A and that he could not have been the rapist. The DNA evidence has shown which side was correct.
As outlined in the opening, James had submitted for DNA testing several times and was each time rejected. I don’t know what it is about this system that makes it seem okay to deny someone DNA testing when their livelihood hangs in the balance. If not for the statute that enabled DNA testing on older cases and the appellate court confirming James’ right to have DNA testing, he would still be in prison today.
Beaming, Bain watched the quick proceedings in a Polk County courtroom, where Judge James Yancey told him, “I’m now signing the order, sir. You are a free man. Congratulations.”
As for Bain’s defense, aside from the defense testimony mentioned above, there were plenty of witnesses to James having been at the aforementioned party prior to going home. The location of the rape was a full two miles from the party James was attending and his presence was noted to the degree that he would not have been able to sneak away, commit the crime, and be home by 10:30pm – Too many people had seen him. However, the defense only called four witnesses for his alibi, most of which were family. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, calling the mother or sister to corroborate an alibi for a man accused of rape just isn’t going to cut it. That is not enough for reasonable doubt for a lot of people. You have to corroborate the alibi with witnesses that have no reason to lie. And you have to bridge these witness statements across one another so that even if one or two are questionable, the whole of the witness statements creates a picture that resonates with the jurors and strikes at the prosecution’s case. Needless to say, that wasn’t done here, and it could have been.
Court Reverses DNA Testing Decision in Swearingen Case
The state’s highest criminal court on Wednesday unanimously reversed a lower court’s decision to allow further DNA testing in the case of death row inmate Larry Swearingen, sending his case back to a district court for further proceedings.
Swearingen was sentenced to death in 2000 after he was convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing 19-year-old Melissa Trotter in Montgomery County. His lawyers say DNA testing on evidence found near Trotter’s body could prove his innocence, but prosecutors say further testing is unnecessary.
James Rytting, a lawyer representing Swearingen, said he would revisit the present motion for further DNA testing now that the case is before the district court once again.
“They remanded it,” Rytting said of the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision. “They didn’t say DNA testing is completely forbidden.”
Bill Delmore, the Montgomery County assistant district attorney prosecuting Swearingen’s case, said he would ask the court to set another execution date, adding that there was a “mountain of evidence” of Swearingen’s guilt.
“Here we are, back where we started,” he said.
february 5, 2014
Death row inmate Larry Swearingen cannot prove that biological materials exist on evidence connected to the 1998 murder of Melissa Trotter – including on the alleged murder weapon – and therefore is not entitled to DNA testing of those items, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled this morning.
Swearingen was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1998 murder of 19-year-old Trotter, a Montgomery County community college student who disappeared from her college campus on Dec. 8, 1998. Her body was found several weeks later, by a group of hunters, in the Sam Houston National Forest near Lake Conroe.
Swearingen was seen with Trotter on campus not long before she disappeared. He has maintained his innocence and has been seeking DNA testing for a decade. Among the never-before-tested items of evidence are two lengths of pantyhose – one used to strangle Trotter, found around her neck, the other later found by Swearingen’s former landlord inside a house Swearingen and his wife had previously rented from the man.
In ruling against Swearingen on Wednesday, Judge Paul Womack wrote for the unanimous court that a district court ruling that last year approved the requested DNA testing would be overturned because Swearingen “cannot prove the existence of biological material” that could be tested. Although the defense presented to the district court expert testimony that biological evidence would “likely” be found on the pantyhose that is not enough to secure testing, the court ruled. “[W]e have explicitly held that appellee must prove biological material exists and not that it is merely probable.”
In other words, without testing, there can be no testing.
The court’s conclusion also precludes any testing of cigarette butts found near Trotter’s body or of Trotter’s clothes, absent a showing that biological material exists on each item.
Only finger nail scrapings taken from Trotter are considered “biological evidence per se” and thus not restricted by the need to prove DNA exists before testing can be done. Only some of the collected scrapings were tested, and material found from under one of Trotter’s fingernails produced DNA from an unknown male.
Still, that result is not enough to convince the court that if additional testing were to be performed it would do anything to convince a jury of Swearingen’s innocence. “In order to be entitled to DNA testing,” Womack wrote for the court, “[Swearingen] must show by a preponderance of the evidence (51%) that he would not have been convicted if the exculpatory results were available at trial.”
Indeed, the unidentified profile previously identified was presented to Swearingen’s jury, the court notes, apparently without effect. “Since the jury already was aware that an unidentified male’s DNA was found under the victim’s fingernails, we fail to see how other such results would have changed its verdict,” Womack wrote. “The jury chose to believe that the foreign DNA either was contamination or that it came rom outside the context of the crime.” In short, the court concluded, Swearingen “cannot show that new testing would lead to a different result.”
During a December hearing on the matter before the CCA, Montgomery County prosecutor Bill Delmore told the court that the mountain of circumstantial evidence against Swearingen is insurmountable and that even if further DNA testing revealed additional evidence from another male – even from a known “serial killer” – that he would conclude only that Swearingen had an accomplice. “Nothing will ever convince me of his innocence,” Delmore said.
PAMPA — A Texas Department of Public Safety expert testified Tuesday that genetic material found on a knife at the scene of a 1993 triple homicide was consistent with Hank Skinner’s DNA profile, but the death row inmate’s defense team maintains that another man killed the family.
Georgette Oden, an assistant attorney general, quizzed DPS expert Brent Hester about a battery of DNA testing results during an evidentiary hearing at the Gray County courthouse.
Testimony ended Tuesday in the two-day hearing, but attorneys for both sides are expected to submit further briefs to District Judge Steven Emmert after court transcripts are completed.
The hearing focused on whether it is “reasonably probable” that Skinner, now 51, would have been acquitted if all DNA evidence in the case had been presented at his 1995 trial, according to court records.
Skinner was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die in the slayings of Twila Jean Busby, 40, and her sons — 22- year-old Elwin “Scooter” Caler and 20-year-old Randy Busby.
Skinner has claimed he was too intoxicated to have slain the Busbys because he drank vodka and took codeine on the night of the killings.
After the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Skinner’s execution three times due to changing post-conviction law, prosecutors agreed to allow DNA testing, and both sides now have received the results.
Hester, a DPS analyst from the Lubbock crime lab, testified Tuesday that genetic material recovered from the blade of a knife found on the front porch of the victims’ home could be linked to Skinner. Forensic tests on the knife blade, he said, proved the presence of blood on the weapon, and the material found on the knife contained DNA traces from Skinner, Caler and Busby.
“We do not say it was that person’s DNA,” Hester said of how DPS interprets DNA results recovered from a crime scene. “They are not consistent solely with him, but they are consistent with him being a possible contributor.”
Hester also testified that some DNA recovered from the crime scene was contaminated with his DNA and that of a former court reporter who handled evidence in the case. The longtime forensic scientist also testified that some genetic material recovered from a carpet stain, door handles in the home and a door frame could be tied to Skinner.
Hester also said DNA from an unknown individual also was located in the carpet stain, which was in a bedroom where the two male victims were found. Hester said that genetic material could have been deposited when the carpet was originally laid and could have come from nearly anyone who visited the Busby home at 804 E. Campbell St. in Pampa.
Robert Owen, Skinner’s attorney, said after the hearing that testimony showed minute traces of DNA from an unknown person and Twila Busby’s blood had been found on a dish towel that had been left in a plastic bag at the crime scene.
Owen also said the prosecution has claimed that Skinner stabbed Randy Busby in the back while he lay on his bunk bed, but Owen said testimony presented during the hearing casts doubt on the state’s theory.
“If Mr. Skinner stabbed Randy Busby in the manner claimed by the state, Mr. Skinner’s blood should have been on the blanket of Randy’s bed. It was not. If Mr. Skinner’s hands were covered with the victims’ blood when he staggered out of the house, their blood should have been mixed with his on the doorknobs he touched. It was not,” Owen said in a statement.
Owen said a state expert’s testimony also indicated that three of four hairs found in Twila Busby’s hand — hairs the defense said contain DNA consistent with a maternal relative of the victims — were “visually dissimilar” to the victim’s own hair. That testimony, he said, supports the defense team’s conclusion that Robert Donnell, Twila Busby’s now-deceased uncle, killed the Pampa family.
“The state presented no compelling evidence that the hairs could have come from another maternal relative. In fact, Ms. Busby’s mother stated under oath before Mr. Skinner’s trial that she had not been inside the house in the preceding four months,” Owen said in a statement.
Owen also said he was disappointed that Emmert did not allow testimony from a key witness about a jacket found at the crime scene. The witness was prepared to testify the now-missing jacket belonged to Donnell.
“At the DNA hearing, Mr. Skinner sought to present testimony from a witness who can positively identify the jacket as Donnell’s, and to have his DNA expert explain how testing could have confirmed Donnell’s DNA on the jacket,” Owen said in a statement. “We respectfully disagree with this decision. In our view, this evidence is at the center of the case. It shows why a jury that heard all the evidence, including DNA results, would have harbored a reasonable doubt about Mr. Skinner’s guilt.”
Owen also noted that much of the DNA evidence gathered in the case was mishandled, contaminated or lost.
Owen indicated in his statement that “doubts about Hank Skinner’s guilt are far too great to allow his execution to proceed, particularly where the state’s utter failure to safeguard key pieces of evidence may make it impossible to resolve those questions conclusively.”
PAMPA, TX — A hearing is set regarding recent DNA testing in the case of a Texas death row inmate convicted of a triple slaying in the Panhandle.
Attorneys for the state and Hank Skinner’s attorneys will present testimony during the two-day hearing set to begin Monday in Pampa.
Skinner’s attorneys hope to show he didn’t kill a woman and her two sons in 1993. The 52-year-old was convicted of capital murder in 1995.
Court documents filed by the state say results of DNA testing done at a law enforcement lab “further confirm” Skinner’s guilt. Skinner’s attorneys say more sophisticated test results from an independent lab make doubts about his guilt “too weighty” to allow his execution.
Each side will submit written arguments after the hearing. The judge will later release his findings.