Shirley Skinner, 78, Asks Governor To Commute Murder Sentence

Jan 16, 2014

An elderly woman convicted in a notorious murder case is asking the governor to let her out of prison. At a hearing on the matter Wednesday in Springfield, family and friends of the victim were uniformly opposed.

Shirley Skinner is just a few years into her 55-year sentence. A jury convicted her of murdering her granddaughter's estranged husband, Steven Watkins, shooting him in the back of the head. He had come to their house in Ashland to visit his daughter.

Addressing the Prisoner Review Board, DePaul University law professor Andrea Lyon argues Skinner, 78, is sick, and no threat to anyone.

"We are asking simply that a commutation of sentence be had, so that Mrs. Skinner may go home and be with her husband of over 60 years," Lyon says.

But the victim's other daughter, Alex Watkins, 14, is urging the Board to reject Skinner's plea.

"It's easier knowing that the person who forced me to live without my father is also living without her loved ones," Watkins says.

The Prisoner Review Board will make a secret recommendation about Skinner's request, but the decision whether to commute her sentence rests only with Gov. Pat Quinn.