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Henry Watkins "Hank" Skinner - Texas Death Row - Scheduled Execution
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Start : Wednesday 9 November 2011, 22:00
End : Wednesday 9 November 2011, 22:00

Henry Watkins "Hank" Skinner - Texas Death Row - Scheduled Execution - November 9, 2011


Victims: Twila Busby, Randy Busby and Scooter Caler

The Crime: Henry Watkins "Hank" Skinner (born April 4, 1962) was convicted of bludgeoning to death his live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby, and stabbing to death her two mentally impaired sons, Randy Busby and Scooter Caler. The murders occurred on December 31, 1993 at 801 East Campbell Avenue in Pampa, Texas. Skinner was convicted of the murders on March 18, 1994, and sentenced to death on March 23, 1995.

Appellant lived with Twila Busby and her two adult sons, Randy Busby and Elwin Caler, both of whom had mental retardation. Between 10:15 and 10:30 p.m., on December 31, 1993, Howard Mitchell came to the residence to take appellant and Twila to a New Year's Eve party. Howard found appellant asleep on the couch and was unable to wake him. Appellant had apparently been drinking. Leaving appellant on the couch, Twila and Howard went to the party, but Twila soon asked to be taken home because her uncle, Robert Donnell, was drunk and was following her around, making rude sexual advances, and generally agitating her. Howard drove Twila home between 11:00 and 11:15 p.m., and left.

At around midnight, Elwin showed up on a neighbor's porch with stab wounds, from which he subsequently died. Twila was found dead on the living room floor of her home, and Randy's dead body was found lying face down on the top bunk bed in the sons' bedroom. Appellant was found by police at Andrea Reed's house, located three-and-a-half to four blocks away, at around 3:00 a.m. When the police found him, appellant was standing in a closet and wearing clothing that was heavily stained in blood on both the front and back.

At trial, Andrea testified that appellant arrived at her house at around midnight and that they conversed for three hours. She did not know how he entered her trailer, but when she saw him, he took his shirt off and laid it on a chair. Appellant had a bleeding cut in his right hand. He heated up sewing needles and attempted to bend them to sew up his hand, and then he asked her to sew it, and she agreed. At some point, he went to the bathroom by himself. During their conversation, Andrea attempted to leave the room and call the police, but appellant stopped her and threatened to kill her. Appellant told Andrea multiple stories about what happened at his home. He claimed that a Mexican came to the door and pulled a knife, that Twila was in bed with her ex-husband with whom appellant got into a fist-fight, that appellant thought he had killed Twila by trying to kick her to death, that Ricky Palmer broke into the house, and that cocaine dealers were looking for Twila and wanted her really bad.

The medical examiner found that Twila had been strangled into unconsciousness and subsequently beaten at least fourteen times about the face and head with a club. DNA testing matched the blood on appellant's clothing to Twila and Elwin. Three bloody handprints matching appellant's were found in the house: one in the sons' bedroom and two on doorknobs leading out the back door.

News: March 24, 2010

Execution delayed in DNA case
Lyle Denniston | Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 6:17 pm

The Supreme Court on Wednesday evening delayed the execution in Texas of Henry W. Skinner, at least until the Court acts on his new case seeking to pursue a civil rights claim that he was denied a chance to have DNA evidence tested in an attempt to prove his innocence of a triple murder more than 16 years ago. The Court’s order blocked an execution that had been scheduled for 7 p.m. Washington time. The Court has not yet scheduled its consideration of his pending appeal (Skinner v. Switzer, 09-9000; his stay application was 09A743).

Skinner is seeking to raise an issue that the Justices had agreed to review last Term in District Attorney’s Office v. Osborne (08-6). The Court decided the Osborne case on June 18, but left unresolved that specific issue. The question is whether a state inmate seeking access to and testing of DNA evidence may pursue that claim under civil rights law (Section 1983), rather than in a federal habeas challenge. Skinner’s lawyers contend that he has tried unsuccessfully to use Texas state procedures for DNA testing, so his only remaining chance to get it is through a civil rights claim.

He was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to death for the slaying of his live-in girlfriend and her two mentally retarded, adult sons, in their home in the small town of Pampa, Texas, on New Year’s Eve in 1993. He was in the home during the murder rampage, but has contended repeatedly since then that he was unconscious from using drugs and alcohol earlier in the evening. He also has contended that new evidence, about the physical nature of the killings, indicates that in his condition he had neither the strength nor clarity of mind to commit the crimes.

For ten years, his lawyers have said, he has sought access to DNA evidence that was never tested by prosecutors. He filed his federal civil rights claim only after those efforts had failed, his counsel has said. Although prosecutors arranged for some DNA tests on some of the evidence, and used the results to help convict Skinner, his attorneys contend that prosecutors only sought selective testing of crime scene materials.

In his petition for review, Skinner contended that he has a constitutional interest under state law in seeking to use evidence that would help prove his innocence, but that he has been frustrated in trying to vindicate that interest in state proceedings. In addition, the petition argued that the conflict among lower courts on whether a DNA access claim can be pursued under civil rights law, or only under habeas law, has intensified since the Supreme Court agreed to examine that issue in the Osborne case last Term. Thus, it said, the need for Supreme Court guidance is now “more urgent.”

Lawyers on both sides have completed all of the filings in the case on that issue, so the Court is expected to schedule it for Conference within a matter of weeks. In the meantime, the postponement granted Wednesday will stay in effect until the petition is acted upon and, if granted, until it is decided. If review is denied, the postponement will expire automatically and the state could then schedule execution anew. If review is granted, a ruling would not be expected until next Term, starting next October.

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