Monday, March 07, 2011

US Supreme Court Rules Death Row Inmate Can Seek DNA Review

The US Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of a Texas death row inmate who wanted to test DNA evidence. The court ruled 6-3 (Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy dissenting)

The case is Skinner v. Switzer.

Skinner was sentenced to death in 1995 for murdering his girlfriend and her two sons. He never denied his presence in the house when the murders occurred, but claimed that he was incapacitated by alcohol and codeine and asserted that the deceased girlfriend's uncle was the responsible party.

Fingerprint and other evidence was collected, and some of it implicated Skinner, but fingerprints on one knife did not. Items that were untested included other knives found on the premises and other other DNA evidence. Skinner has sought to have law enforcement to test the untested biological evidence collected at the scene.

The Supreme Court ruled that there is federal subject matter jurisdiction over Skinner's complaint and the claim he presents is cognizable under Section 1983. That means that Skinner had the right to have such evidence tested, and it is the right decision since Skinner could potentially be exonerated from the crimes for which he was convicted.

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