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article imageOp-Ed: Hank Skinner execution halted; Komisarjevsky case continues

By Alexander Baron     Nov 9, 2011 in Crime
A convicted triple killer on death row has been granted a stay of execution for DNA testing; another triple killer fails to impress with a sob story.
Hank Skinner was convicted of a senseless triple murder; the evidence against him looks compelling, but there is the little matter of unfinished business, namely DNA testing that should have been done at the time but for some bizarre reason wasn't.
Some background to Skinner's conviction can be found here. As is often the case when a convicted killer is protesting his innocence with the assistance of a compliant amen corner, there are two very different sides to the story, or in this case, two entirely different stories: the story proven in a court of law, and the story peddled by propagandists or even shameless liars as in the cases of Satpal Ram and Mumia Abu-Jamal. It does happen though that the courts get it wrong. Sometimes the evidence can seem utterly compelling, but be flawed. Sally Clarke was convicted of murdering two of her babies; it would later transpire that this was one of a number of tragic cases in which no crime was committed, though it wasn't until the acquittal of Trupti Patel on similar charges that the truth sank in.
Skinner's case is more reminiscent of that of Sally Anne Bowman. Just as Croydon police were about to charge her boyfriend Lewis Sproston with her murder, the DNA results came in, and they were left flummoxed. Hank Skinner is not under arrest on suspicion of one murder, he has been convicted of three, and sitting on death row for many years, but the State of Texas has nothing to lose by ordering this further testing. If he had been executed in China or Iran without being granted this reasonable request, there would have been hell to pay.
Up north in Connecticut, another convicted triple killer is fighting for his life. Unlike Hank Skinner, there is not a smidgeon of doubt as to the correctness of his conviction. Joshua Komisarjevsky was the junior partner in the shocking home invasion murders in which Dr William Petit survived a beating and imprisonment in the basement of his home only to find his wife and two daughters killed in a fashion that is almost too terrible to describe. Komisarjevsky's accomplice Steven Hayes - who has boasted of committing seventeen other murders - has already been convicted and sentenced to death. Komisarjevsky has also been convicted, and his (separate) trial is now at the sentencing phase. Among the arguments that are being trotted out in his defence is that he was repeatedly sexually abused as a young boy. The phrase that comes to mind here is so what?
Prosecutors have unsuprisingly expressed skepticism at these claims, which even if true might be argued not as some sort of bizarre mitigation but as a case of a man who should have known better, having suffered himself. In addition to being murdered, Dr Petit's wife was raped.
Whatever the jury decides, the one good thing to come out of this trial is the knowledge that Komisarjevsky will never see daylight again.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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