Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575
Death date is set
Former county man on death row in Texas
Friday, August 5, 2011
By AMANDA BUCK - Bulletin Staff Writer
A new execution date has been set for a former Henry County man who is on death row in Texas.
Henry Watkins "Hank" Skinner, 49, was sentenced to the death penalty in 1995 for the murder of his girlfriend and her two adult sons in their home in Pampa, Texas. According to the website of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Skinner is set to be executed Nov. 9 for those crimes.
This is not the first execution date for Skinner, who attended Fieldale-Collinsville High School. He was less than an hour away from execution in March 2010 when the U.S. Supreme Court halted the sentence and agreed to hear a matter in Skinner's case.
In March of this year, the justices ruled that Skinner had the right to sue a Texas district attorney under a federal civil rights law for refusing to allow him access to evidence for DNA testing.
Skinner has sought to have several items that were gathered at the scene of the crime tested for DNA evidence, which his attorneys say could exonerate him. The district attorney, Lynn Switzer, has refused.
Skinner's trial attorney decided not to test the evidence because he feared it would further incriminate Skinner, according to Associated Press reports.
Although the Supreme Court's ruling meant Skinner's civil suit could move forward, the court did not rule on whether he should be given access to the evidence. That decision has not yet been made.
According to one of Skinner's attorneys, Washington, D.C.-based Douglas Robinson, the civil case still is pending in federal court in the Northern District of Texas Amarillo Division. Robinson said Switzer has asked the court to dismiss the case on different grounds, but the court has not yet ruled on that request.
Robinson said he believes the new execution date is "an effort to put pressure on the federal court to act quickly."�
Skinner was convicted in the New Year's Eve 1993 slaying of Twila Jean Busby, who was choked and struck in the head with an ax handle, according to information on the Texas criminal justice department's website. Busby's two sons, Elwin Caler, 22, and Randy Busby, 20, were stabbed with a kitchen knife, the document says.