DNA testing allowed for Texas death row inmate

June 1, 2012 - 7:35 PM

DALLAS (AP) — A man condemned for the New Year's Eve slayings of his girlfriend and her two sons will get new DNA testing after the Texas attorney general's office on Friday withdrew its objections.

Hank Skinner was sentenced to death and once came within an hour of execution for the 1993 slayings of Twila Busby and her two grown sons in Pampa, in the Texas Panhandle. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted its last stay of execution Nov. 7.

Prosecutors had consistently dismissed Skinner's request for DNA testing as a ploy to delay his execution. They reversed course Friday in a one-paragraph advisory filed with the Court of Criminal Appeals.

"Upon further consideration, the State believes that the interest of justice would best be served in this case by DNA testing the evidence requested by Skinner and by testing additional items identified by the State," prosecutors said.

A spokesman for Attorney General Greg Abbott did not say what led to his office's new stance on testing.

Skinner, 50, has acknowledged being inside the house where Busby and her sons were found. But he insists he couldn't be the killer because he was passed out on a couch from a mix of vodka and cocaine.

The evidence Skinner has sought was not tested earlier because his trial lawyer feared the results would hurt his case. The untested evidence includes vaginal swabs taken from Busby during an autopsy and two knives found in or around Busby's home.

Neither Abbott's office nor Skinner's attorneys specified what they would have tested.

"We are pleased that the State finally appears willing to work with us to make that testing a reality," Rob Owen, an attorney for Skinner, said in a statement. "It will be necessary, of course, to work out the details of any such testing with the State, in order to ensure that the evidence is carefully and properly handled, and that every piece of evidence that we have identified as important gets tested."

Prosecutors had maintained Skinner's claims about the evidence aren't new and other courts already have decided the issue.