Death Row

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Supreme Court Decision Affects Death Row Inmates?

Two Texas death row inmates, including one who is set to be executed next week, hope a ruling yesterday from the U.S. Supreme Court will give them another chance to prove their innocence or that their crimes don’t warrant the death penalty.

KUT’s reporting partner, The Texas Tribune, reports the high court’s ruling in a case out of Arizona, Martinez v. Ryan, could expand appeals access for inmates:

The nation’s highest court ruled that the failure of initial state habeas lawyers to argue that their client’s trial counsel was ineffective should not prevent the defendant from making that argument later on.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the case of Texas death row inmate Duane Buck, who alleged that race played an improper role in his death sentence. In September, the court issued a rare stay of execution while it considered the merits of the case. Monday's action lifts the stay and allows the state to set a new execution date.

Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted a request to stay the execution of death row inmate Henry 'Hank' Skinner. The decision comes after two letters were filed on Skinner's behalf.

Skinner's defense attorneys sent a letter to Governor Rick Perry, requesting he hold off Skinner's execution long enough to conduct DNA testing. The Innocence Project sent a similar letter to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Photo courtesy of Andres Rueda/via Flickr

Lawyers for two condemned Texas prisoners are asking the U.S. Justice Department to investigate how the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has obtained drugs used in executions.

Their argument hinges on what sounds like a technicality: the address used to register the state's drug supply.

Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Texas death row inmate who is seeking to have DNA evidence in his murder case tested.  The court's decision means Hank Skinner won't be executed any time soon.

At issue in the case was not whether the DNA should be tested, but rather what procedures can be used in asking a court to order the testing.  Skinner's lawyers argued their client has a right to pursue a civil rights claim for the testing.

The decision reverses an appeals court ruling, and sending the case back to district court in Amarillo.

Anthony Graves
Photo courtesy Texas Monthly

The Burleson County District Attorney has dropped murder charges against Anthony Graves. Graves had been behind bars for nearly two decades for the murders of six people in 1992 in Somerville, TX, a small town of about 2,000 just an hour-and-a-half east of Austin.