Why Must A Death Row Inmate Petition the SCOTUS For DNA Testing?

tn_119needlesyringe.gifDNA testing is becoming more and more commonplace in the world of criminal justice. Apart from the stuff of T.V. shows, cold cases are really being solved through the use of DNA evidence and Innocence Projects are helping overturn wrongful convictions. Here in Orange County, California, the District Attorney’s Office is collecting DNA in an effort to start what has turned out to be a rather controversial DNA database.

So if DNA is so commonplace, why did Hank Skinner have to spend 16 years on death row and appeal to the United States Supreme Court to get an order to have crime scene DNA tested in his case?

According to¬†David Protess of the Chicago Innocence Projects,¬†Skinner was convicted in 1995 of bludgeoning his girlfriend to death and fatally stabbing two of her children on New Year’s Eve in 1993. Skinner maintained that he was not in the home when it happened but a federal court inexplicably denied Skinner’s defense team the access to the DNA evidence at trial.

The court refused to allow Skinner to access potentially exonerating evidence. To a criminal defense attorney, if is baffling that a court would preclude a jury from hearing the truth, especially when the truth could prevent the death penalty for an innocent man. DNA can provide truly objective inculpating or exonerating evidence if it is collected and interpreted with the highest scientific standards. The fact that a man could spend a moment on death row while DNA evidence sits in a lab, either untested or tested and not presented, is a true indication of a broken system of criminal justice.


Criminal defense attorney Lauren K Johnson has handled several serious cases that involved the use of DNA evidence. Contact our office for assistance in any type of criminal case where scientific evidence may be crucial.