Inmate delays execution, claims violation of rights

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AMARILLO — A Texas death row inmate just weeks from execution asked a federal court Monday to keep his civil rights lawsuit alive while his attorneys try to get knives and other evidence turned over for new DNA tests they claim will show he didn’t kill his girlfriend and her sons nearly two decades ago.

But prosecutors said Henry Watkins Skinner is just trying to delay his death with a merit-less request.

Skinner, 49, came within an hour of lethal injection last year before the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and now has a Nov. 9 execution date. His lawsuit claims the state violated his civil rights by withholding access to the evidence he wants tested. Monday’s hearing came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March that Skinner could ask for the untested evidence but left unresolved whether the district attorney had to surrender those items. A state court will make that decision.

The request for testing is the third from Skinner but the first since a state law about evidence testing took effect Sept. 1. The new law allows DNA testing even if the offender chose not to seek testing before trial. Prosecutors maintain the new law doesn’t apply to Skinner.

“Because Skinner has not met the standards required by law and does not seek to test newly discovered evidence, the Court should deny his claims,” Bean wrote.

Skinner was sentenced to death for the 1993 deaths of his girlfriend, 40-year-old Twila Busby and her sons, Elwin “Scooter” Caler, 22, and Randy Busby, 20. The victims were strangled, beaten or stabbed on New Year’s Eve at their home in Pampa in the Texas Panhandle.