By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
In order to damage or even sabotage his presidential campaign, the liberal media have seized on Texas Governor Rick Perry’s record on capital punishment. But the liberal media are facing a major public backlash by doing so.
Recall the public reaction when NBC’s Brian Williams tried to put Perry on the defensive over this issue by asking during the September 7, 2011, Republican debate, “Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you… (APPLAUSE) Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?” The applause suggested that the public won’t accept liberal media bias on crime and justice issues.
The Washington Post took this kind of attack to a new level on September 9, attacking Perry because the state of Texas took “the extraordinary step” of rescheduling the execution of Henry W. Skinner for November 9. The case involves the ability of Skinner, a convicted killer, to test some evidence from a crime scene that may or may not implicate Skinner in the murders of his girlfriend and her two children. But regardless of whether this new evidence implicates him or not, he has already been convicted of the crimes because of crime scene and other evidence that has been tested or confirms his guilt.
The Post insisted, “Rather than focusing on killing Mr. Skinner, prosecutors should be pushing to ensure that he receives justice. That would mean supporting his quest to test the omitted pieces of evidence. These tests could prove conclusively that he committed the crimes for which he is sentenced to die, or they could prove his innocence. [emphasis added]. We oppose the death penalty, but if it is to be carried out, it should be done with a heightened level of certainty that the person being punished is guilty. Anything short of that should cause all people of conscience to lose sleep.”
This is false. It is important to understand, as noted by Dudley Sharp, founder of Justice Matters, that it is impossible to prove Skinner’s innocence through these additional DNA tests because his guilt has already been established through the DNA tests that have already been done.
As a brief in the case notes, “Even if Skinner was granted access to the evidence he seeks to subject to DNA testing, the results of such testing would not prove, or even tend to prove, Skinner’s innocence of the crimes for which he was convicted. In other words, even if DNA found at the scene of the murders did match someone other than Skinner, it would not exonerate him. Indeed, Skinner does not contend that the results of any DNA testing would in fact be exculpatory.”
The untested items or “omitted pieces of evidence,” as the Post calls them, were not tested because Skinner’s lawyers thought the results would further implicate him in the crimes!
“In Texas, a rush to execute” was the headline over the Post editorial. In fact, Skinner was convicted of the crimes in 1994 and sentenced to death in 1995. However, activists from the “Medill Innocence Project” have been working to free him. It is another liberal attempt to delay justice and create the public impression that innocent people are being put to death.
Recognizing the request for additional DNA testing as a ploy designed to buy time for the convicted killer, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, in a 7-0 vote, recommended that Perry reject a reprieve sought by Skinner to allow time for this testing on the other evidence. The board also voted 7-0 against granting Skinner’s request for a commutation of his death sentence.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on March 7 of this year that Skinner had a federal civil right to return to a Texas court and seek the additional tests that his lawyers did not want at the time he was on trial. It is yet another delay.
But the Post editorial tried to obscure the nature of this evidence. Here’s how the Post described the case: “Mr. Skinner was convicted in 1995 of murdering his girlfriend and her two grown children. A district attorney’s office introduced physical evidence and eyewitness testimony and performed DNA tests, some of which implicated Mr. Skinner and some of which proved inconclusive.”
Some of which implicated Skinner? What might that evidence be?
Here are the “facts of the crime,” as recounted in a legal brief about the case:
“In March 1995, a jury convicted Skinner of murdering his girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two mentally retarded sons, Randy Busby and Elwin Caler, on New Year’s Eve of 1993. Twila, Randy, and Elwin were strangled, bludgeoned, and stabbed in their house shortly before midnight.
“At midnight, a police officer found Elwin, in bloodstained undershorts, sitting on the porch of a neighbor’s house with stab wounds under his left arm and on his right hand and stomach. He was taken to a hospital and died shortly thereafter. Investigating Elwin’s stabbing, the police went to the home where he lived with Twila, Randy, and Skinner. The police noticed a trail of blood on the ground running from the front porch to the fence line, a blood smear on the glass storm door, and a knife on the front porch. They found Twila dead on the living room floor. She had been strangled into unconsciousness, then beaten on the head with a blunt object at least fourteen times. A bloodstained axe handle and plastic trash bag containing a knife and bloody towel lay nearby. She exhibited signs of recent sexual intercourse. In a bedroom, officers found Randy dead in an upper bunk. His body was lying face down, and he had been stabbed three times in the back.
“On the door frame between the bedroom and a utility room, officers found a bloody hand print roughly two feet above the floor. Bloody prints were also found on the door knob of the door connecting the utility room to the kitchen and on the doorknob of the utility room door opening to the backyard. The prints were Skinner’s. Suspecting Skinner, the police sought and found him at 3:00 a.m. in the house of Andrea Reed, his former girlfriend, standing in a closet wearing heavily bloodstained jeans and socks and bearing a gash on the palm of his right hand. DNA testing showed that blood on Skinner belonged to Twila and Elwin.” (emphasis added).
The brief goes on: “The evidence presented at trial overwhelmingly showed Skinner’s guilt; and his conviction and sentence have been upheld every step of the way.”
It’s no wonder that the audience at the Republican debate erupted in applause when Williams noted the number of killers executed in Texas.
Brian Williams himself seemed surprised, asking, “What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?”
Perry replied: “I think Americans understand justice. I think Americans are clearly, in the vast majority of—of cases, supportive of capital punishment. When you have committed heinous crimes against our citizens—and it’s a state-by-state issue, but in the state of Texas, our citizens have made that decision, and they made it clear, and they don’t want you to commit those crimes against our citizens. And if you do, you will face the ultimate justice.”
The controversy once again demonstrates the liberal bent of the media and how they side with convicted killers over their innocent victims.
Williams wasn’t the only member of the media shocked by the response. “Perry draws applause in defending death penalty, hasn’t struggled over questions of innocence,” was the long headline over an AP story in the Post.
According to Gallup, the public supports the death penalty by 64-29. Most members of the liberal media are obviously in the 29 percent.