78-year old woman asks Governor to commute murder sentence

Jan 16, 2014

Family members argued for and against clemency for Shirley Skinner before the Prisoner Review Board Wednesday in Springfield. From left: Penny Watkins, mother of victim Steven Watkins; Andrea Lyon, a DePaul University law professor representing Skinner; Debbie Webster, Skinner’s daughter; and Kenneth Skinner, Shirley’s husband of 61 years.
Credit Brian Mackey / Illinois Public Radio
A 78-year-old woman convicted of murder is asking Governor Pat Quinn to commute her sentence. It was a notorious case in central Illinois. As IPR'S Brian Mackey reports, she's served just a few years in prison.

The woman is Shirley Skinner. Back in 2008, during a long, bitter custody dispute, her granddaughter's estranged husband, Steven Watkins, came over to visit their child. He ended up getting shot in the back of the head. Skinner reportedly told responding emergency medical personnel, "I shot him."

A jury convicted her of first-degree murder. Now, she's asking Gov. Quinn to commute her 55-year sentence. At a hearing of the Prisoner Review Board in Springfield, friends and family of the victim packed the room, urging the board to keep Skinner locked up. Penny Watkins is the victim's mother.

"She gave Steven -- Steven's family, Steven's daughter and friends -- no mercy, and I don't believe she should have any. She should get the same sentence he did: life, with no mercy."

A law professor from DePaul University argued Skinner is sick, not a threat, and therefore should be able to spend her remaining years with family.

The Prisoner Review Board will make a confidential recommendation to Quinn, but the governor has the final say on commutations.