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Innocence Must Matter

US Supreme Court agrees to hear case requesting DNA tests

On Monday, May 24, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Hank Skinner, a death row inmate from Texas. Skinner, who came within minutes of being executed in March, has long been requesting that Texas perform a DNA test that he claims will show his innocence.

This case will offer an opportunity for the Court to expand access to DNA testing and, possibly more importantly, to again address the issue of actual innocence in death penalty cases. In another case where a defendant, Troy Davis, has long claimed to be innocent of the crime for which he is facing death, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia claimed that the highest court in the land is not necessarily concerned with whether a person facing execution was guilty or innocent, only that the original court process had been carried out correctly. The dissenting ruling which came last summer stated that the court “has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a … court that he is ‘actually innocent.'”

There is no place in modern society for a justice system that is ready and willing to carry out the “ultimate punishment” with no regard for those who have been wrongfully convicted. In the last 37 years 138 people have been released from death rows around the country because of evidence of their innocence. The risk of executing an innocent person is real. Innocent Nebraskans have been convicted as result of shoddy forensics, coerced confessions, jailhouse snitches, and mistaken witnesses. Despite our best intentions, human beings simply can’t be right 100% of the time. And when a life is on the line, one mistake is one too many.


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