There is strong, if but not conclusive, evidence suggesting that Texas executed an innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham. Radley Balko reports that some fear the Lone Star state is about to do it again in the case of Hank Skinner. DNA testing of remaining evidence might put an end to such fears, and provide further evidence of Skinner’s evidence or guilt, but state officials are resisting such tests. As Balko writes:
After a conviction, the criminal justice system tends put a premium on finality, setting a high bar for reopening or retrying old cases. Given the Willingham case and the spate of exonerations across Texas, perhaps it’s time the state put less emphasis on finality, and more on certainty. DNA testing in Skinner’s case may not bring us closer to closing those 1993 murders, but it will bring us closer to discovering the truth about them. In a capital case especially, that alone should be reason enough to to go through with the tests.
UPDATE: Some object to my claim that there is “strong” evidence that Cameron Todd Willingham was innocent. I believe this to be the case. The forensic evidence relied upon at his trial has been thoroughly debunked. Some circumstantial evidence supporting his conviction remains — and he may well have been guilty — but I sincerely doubt he would have been convicted were it not for the questionable forensics.