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High Court to Hear Death Row Inmate DNA Case

(CN) - The Supreme Court has agreed to decide if a Texas death row inmate can seek DNA evidence through a federal civil rights complaint instead of a federal habeas petition.

Henry "Hank" W. Skinner was convicted of murdering his girlfriend and her two sons in 1993. He claims he is entitled to DNA testing under a federal civil rights law, but not all federal appeals courts allow such claims, including the 5th Circuit, which dismissed Skinner's appeal.

"Under the current circuit split, lower courts' treatment of federal civil rights suits for access to DNA evidence post-conviction is profoundly unequal," Skinner argued in his petition for Supreme Court review.

Some of the evidence Skinner would like tested include blood from the murder weapons and the fingernails clippings and a rape test from his then-girlfriend.

He has maintained his innocence, and a number of investigations into the crimes have "sharply called into question his guilt," according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Skinner says he has made repeated requests for the evidence over the years, but all were "ignored or denied." He says new evidence shows that the killer "must have possessed considerable strength, balance and coordination," but on the night of the murders, Skinner was "completely incapacitated by the extreme quantities of alcohol and codeine he had consumed earlier that evening."

Skinner claims he jumped through all the legal hoops available to him, but has still been denied DNA testing that could exonerate him. He wants the Supreme Court to give him another chance to prove his innocence through a federal civil rights lawsuit.

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