April 21, 2024

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Hong Skinner says he is ‘hopeful’ after 27 years on death row

Hong Skinner says he is ‘hopeful’ after 27 years on death row

“I’m confident. I’m not going to end up here.

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Imprisoned in Livingston, 100 kilometers from Houston, the man with the full salt and pepper beard and large transparent brown eyes has always been his innocence. She has been crying out for justice since she was sentenced to death 27 years ago, March 18, 1995, for killing her girlfriend and her two children in Bombay, North Texas.

The father of three, in his sixties, has been waiting more than three years for a Texas Court of Appeals verdict, the state’s highest criminal tribunal, to assess whether the jury that sentenced him to death had done so. If he had benefited from the DNA tests now available he would have had a different outcome.

He does not deny that the trio were in the dead house, but says he fainted after drinking alcohol and codeine. The culprit, who was found nearby with blood on his clothes, says some DNA tests prove he is innocent.

There are 197 death row inmates in Texas. In 2020 and 2021, six were executed, but eleven dropped the death penalty and benefited from having their sentences reviewed.

Some, like the mentally ill Raymond Riles, are still behind bars, and his December 1976 death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Others are as free as Caesar Fierro, who was sent to Mexico after 40 years on death row.

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If the court accepts Hong Skinner’s protection, he will remain in jail, but can appeal to prove his innocence.

Five execution dates

In five cases, he was given a death sentence by the court. On March 24, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States rescued him 23 minutes before his scheduled meal, 23 minutes before the scheduled death injection.

Then his lawyer told the good news.

“I dropped the phone and fell off the wall. I did not understand, but there were tears in both my eyes. It felt like someone was lifting a thousand pounds from my chest. I felt so light. I thought I was going to float …” , Alan P. Polanski explains in the white uniform of the Detention Center.

The happy shock had passed, and paradoxically, at the idea of ​​returning to the death penalty “and all the misery here” he suffered a terrible setback.

According to him, it is harder to watch fellow prisoners die than to be confined in a small room for 22 to 23 hours a day, without a television and without physical contact with anyone other than the guards. In all, 127 prisoners have been killed in Texas since 2010, the highest number of executions in the country.

He lives in a hustle and bustle from morning to evening: “There are chaos that hits the walls”, he testifies.

“They knock on doors, scream, scream at the top of their lungs. Others believe they are being spoken to and respond by screaming. There are those who actually communicate … but we learn to ignore.

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Breakfast was served without lunch and at 3 a.m., making it impossible for him to find the usual rhythm of life.

He sleeps when he is exhausted and often reads other people’s files condemned for using the quiet times of the night.

He worked at a law firm before serving his sentence and shares his expertise with them.

Married a French woman

“I help appeal to anyone who asks me, except those who rape, kill or maim children. I can not, ”he said on the Black Prevention Center cell phone.

“I got 11 people out of here. This is better than any other death sentence lawyer except me, ”he says with a laugh.

In 2008, the prisoner married a French activist against the death penalty, believing that Hong Skinner was a victim of miscarriage of justice.

If he is released, “(we) will find a small house in a forest where we can spend time together,” says Sandrine Ajorges-Skinner today.

“I like to spend every minute of the years I left with my wife,” says Hank Skinner.

There is another plan in the mind of the offender: “The world must abolish the death penalty,” he says with a smile. “If people knew how, they would not vote for the death penalty. I have always believed in humanity.”