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With presidential politics shining a national spotlight on executions in Texas, more efforts are being made to get new DNA testing for condemned prisoners hoping to escape their date with the executioner. But one Panhandle prosecutor’s approach to the testing issue isn’t exactly what two defense lawyers had in mind. Gray County District Attorney John Mann said he plans to have a private lab conduct additional DNA tests on evidence in Henry Watkins Skinner’s case. Skinner was sentenced to die for the New Year’s Eve 1993 murders of his girlfriend, Twila Busby, 40, and her mentally impaired sons, Elwin Caler, 22, and Randy Busby, 20, at their home in Pampa. Mann said he is not afraid to have new tests done on the evidence because he has no doubts about Skinner’s guilt. He said previous DNA tests of blood found on Skinner’s clothing links the man to two of the victims. “I just decided to do it to shut everybody up,” Mann said. However, his plan has drawn strong objections from a New York attorney who represents Skinner. “We don’t know what’s going to happen to the evidence,” said Douglas Robinson, a partner in Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. “The evidence could be destroyed in the testing.” Robinson voiced his opposition to Mann’s plan in a July 12 letter to the district attorney. “We’re not opposed to the testing. We’re opposed to his unilaterally doing the testing without court supervision,” he said. Robinson said a motion for DNA testing was filed with Skinner’s federal habeas petition in U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson’s court in Amarillo. When a request was made for testing as part of the investigation for Skinner’s state habeas petition, Mann rejected it, the attorney said. An execution date has not been set for Skinner, who claims to be innocent. WORKING TOGETHER While Mann and Skinner’s attorneys are at odds, requests for DNA testing in death penalty cases do not always pit prosecutors against defense lawyers. Bexar County District Attorney Susan D. Reed worked with a defense lawyer to get the execution of Caruthers Alexander postponed so that the tests could be done. Alexander had been scheduled to die July 12 for the 1981 rape and strangulation of San Antonio waitress Lori Bruch. Michael Bernard, first assistant district attorney in Bexar County, said Ricky McGinn’s case went through a “rather tortuous route” to get a stay through the clemency process. McGinn was only about half an hour away from receiving a lethal injection when he was granted a 30-day reprieve. Bush agreed to a reprieve for McGinn, who had been scheduled to die last month for the 1995 rape and murder of his 12-year-old stepdaughter Stephanie Flanary. Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, postponed the execution while acting as governor when Gov. George W. Bush and Lt. Gov. Rick Perry were out of state. Delaying an execution through the court system is a less arduous way to do it, Bernard said. The DNA testing in the Alexander case will be on a single hair found in pubic combings from the victim, said Alexander’s attorney, Jeff Pokorak, a law professor at St. Mary’s University School of Law. Pokorak said FBI hair and fiber expert John Quill testified that the hair came from an African-American. “This is the only piece of evidence that allowed the district attorney to say a black man was the perpetrator,” he said. “We agreed it was at least a relevant issue,” Bernard said. Pokorak said DNA testing is “a fabulous tool” that frequently exonerates those who have been wrongly convicted. “It’s going to increase our sense of justice being done,” the professor said. Mann said the attention that the presidential campaign has focused on the death penalty has encouraged defense attorneys to make more demands for DNA testing. He said Bush, the probable Republican presidential nominee, “opened a Pandora’s box” by making the statement that no innocent person has been executed in Texas. “If it wasn’t for the campaign, we wouldn’t be talking about this,” Mann said. But the increased attention on DNA testing apparently isn’t influencing prosecutors in some counties. Mike Carnes, first assistant district attorney in Dallas County, said his office continues to review the testing issue one case at a time as the need arises. “As defense lawyers raise issues, we will address them,” Carnes said, noting that Dallas County has 43 inmates on death row in Texas. DNA tests don’t always lead to the results hoped for by the defense, however. Carnes said courts ordered DNA testing for two Dallas inmates � Charles Anthony Boyd and Domingo Cantu � in 1999, and the tests confirmed the individual’s guilt in each case. Both were executed last year.

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