Judge denies DNA tests before Texas execution

November 3, 2011 - 1:25 PM

HOUSTON (AP) — A judge has denied a Texas death row inmate's request for testing of DNA evidence his attorneys say could prove his innocence, less than a week before the man is set to be executed.

Hank Skinner, 49, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday for the 1993 deaths of his girlfriend and her two sons. Skinner's attorneys had asked for testing of DNA evidence that was not tested before his 1995 trial.

But Judge Steven R. Emmert denied Skinner's request in a brief order issued Wednesday and made public Thursday. The order did not explain the judge's decision.

Skinner's attorneys say they plan to appeal the decision to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

"The stakes in this case are too high to allow Mr. Skinner to be executed before he has a fair chance to make his case that the trial court made a grave mistake in denying his request for DNA testing," said Robert Owen, an attorney for Skinner.

A spokesman for the Texas Attorney General's Office, which is handling appeals in the case for prosecutors, said his office was reviewing whether it would have any comment on the judge's ruling.

Prosecutors have called the DNA testing request merely an attempt by Skinner to delay his execution.

Skinner was sentenced to death for the 1993 deaths of his girlfriend, 40-year-old Twila Busby, and her sons Elwin "Scooter" Caler, 22, and Randy Busby, 20. The victims were strangled, beaten or stabbed on New Year's Eve at their home in Pampa in the Texas Panhandle.

Skinner also has filed a federal lawsuit claiming Texas violated his civil rights by withholding access to the evidence. That lawsuit is pending.