Thursday, January 29, 2009

SCOTUS to decide if post-conviction DNA testing is constitutional right

In a little more than a month, we learn from the Innocence Blog, the US Supreme Court will hear arguments to determine whether prisoners have a constitutional right to post-conviction DNA testing when it could prove their innocence:
In a brief filed [Monday] at the U.S. Supreme Court, the Innocence Project argues that prisoners have the constitutional right to DNA testing that can prove their innocence. The court will hear oral arguments on March 2 in the case of Innocence Project client William Osborne, who was convicted in 1993 in Alaska of a rape he says he didn’t commit. Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld will argue on Osborne’s behalf.

Read the Innocence Project press release here, and download the full brief filed in the case.

“The issue in this case is whether a state can deny a prisoner access to DNA testing that was not available at the time of trial and has the potential to prove his innocence,” Neufeld said. “In the vast majority of cases, prisoners are granted DNA testing under state law or because prosecutors consent to testing without a court order. Alaska is the exception. It is the only state in the nation with no known case of a prisoner receiving DNA testing, either through court order or a prosecutor’s consent. This case involves a very important constitutional protection – one that is the only option for William Osborne.”


Soronel Haetir said...

Be careful what you ask for, the answer might just be 'no'. I could see this court making such a ruling.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No kidding. We're gonna find out!

Anonymous said...

The phrase "not available at the time of trial" should limit the reach of finding in favor or the issue.

With that in mind, they might just say yes.

Anonymous said...

Amazing to think that defendants do not have that as a constitutional right. In a system that is all talk and no show about checks and balances, this would be a great win for everyone.

Rage Judicata said...

I bet the get it right and state that there is a right.

That will not, however, determine things like he current guy up for execution, because the DA is still saying that an absence of his DNA does not prove his innocence.

The next step will be to guarantee new trials if the DNA evidence does not necessarily exonerate the Defendant, but is inconclusive with the state's theory of the case at trial.

Unfortunately, the response to that will simply be to mention that he did it "together or with another" at least once during closing, and it's a done deal.

Anonymous said...

Texas has an opporunity right now to follow the lead of Dallas DA Craig Watkins and his Conviction Integrity Unit. Wouldn't this be a great way to set an example for other states to follow?

Scott........Any suggestions on how this could be funded in Texas?