Staff Editorial

Supreme Court gives everyone a defense

The Supreme Court, in a ruling on Monday that favored a Texas death row inmate, presented a victory to wrongfully convicted prisoners in Texas who have been eager to initiate a DNA-based defense for themselves — but all citizens of this state should consider themselves victors in this ruling.

In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled that Henry Skinner had a right, under a federal civil rights law, to request DNA testing of case evidence. Previously, such testing only occurred on a habeas corpus basis for prisoners, meaning they could only request testing in an effort to be exonerated.

Skinner was convicted in 1995 for the murder of his girlfriend and her two sons in Pampa, Texas. He has been professing his innocence since day one and requesting DNA testing for the past ten years.

Sure, there are many times where the government works for us. There are many times when government takes a stand for the less fortunate among us. The defense of criminals is not amongst those times.

There are too many factors involved, including the selling point to voters of high conviction rates, which lend themselves to the pursuit of individualistic gains.

It would be a harsh generalization to say that aspiring or current district attorneys across the state are in the profession solely to advance themselves and the office, but in some instances — including Skinner’s case — this is the only conclusion one can reach.

When persons entrusted with our justice system are ignoring pleas for a second opinion — even years later — from dead men and women almost walking, then a ruling such as the Supreme Court’s only serves to benefit all the citizens of this state and make solid our faith in our justice system.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote in the majority opinion, “Success in the suit gains for the prisoner only access to the DNA evidence, which may prove exculpatory, inculpatory or inconclusive.”

Yes, it may not free Skinner, the tests may come back and damn him even more, but at least the court has guaranteed the testing as a civil right.

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