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Justices Rule Inmates Don’t Have Right To Dna Tests

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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/19/us/19sco...tml?_r=1&hp

WASHINGTON — Convicts do not have a right under the Constitution to obtain DNA testing to try to prove their innocence after being found guilty, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

In a 5-to-4 decision, the court found against William G. Osborne, a convicted rapist from Alaska. But the decision does not necessarily mean that many innocent prisoners will languish in their cells without access to DNA testing, since Alaska is one of only a few states without a law granting convicts at least some access to the new technology.

“DNA testing has an unparalleled ability both to exonerate the wrongly convicted and to identify the guilty,†the majority conceded, in an opinion written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “The availability of new DNA testing, however, cannot mean that every criminal conviction, or even every conviction involving biological evidence, is suddenly in doubt.â€

In addition, the majority reasoned, it is not so much up to the federal courts as it is to the state legislatures to establish rules “to harness DNA’s power to prove innocence without unnecessarily overthrowing the established criminal justice system.â€

The majority appeared to have been influenced by the fact that 46 states and the federal government have enacted laws that allow some inmates access to DNA testing, and there is nothing to prevent the remaining states from changing their laws. In addition to Alaska, Alabama, Massachusetts and Oklahoma do not explicitly allow the testing.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a dissent expressing his dismay that the majority had chosen to approve of Alaska’s denial of the evidence sought by the defendant. “The DNA test Osborne seeks is a simple one, its cost modest, and its results uniquely precise,†Justice Stevens said.

Since 1992, 238 people in the United States, some who were sitting on death row, have been exonerated of crimes through DNA testing. In many of those cases, the DNA testing used to clear them was not available at the time of the crime.

But several aspects of the Osborne case did not make the defendant a sympathetic one, so perhaps his case was not the ideal vehicle for those hoping that the nation’s highest court would find a constitutional right to “post-conviction†DNA testing — that is, after the normal appeals have been exhausted.

The victim in the Osborne case was a prostitute who was raped, beaten with an ax handle, shot in the head and left in a snow bank near Anchorage International Airport in 1993. She recalled that a condom was used in the assault against her, and one was found near the scene. An ax handle similar to the one used to club the victim was found in the defendant’s room.

The victim identified Mr. Osborne as one of her assailants, and he was also incriminated by another man who was found guilty in the attack.

Moreover, Mr. Osborne later confessed to the Alaska parole board, which released him after he had served 14 years of a 26-year prison term for kidnapping, assault and sexual assault. Later, the defendant said he confessed not because he was guilty, but in the hope of getting out of prison sooner. After his parole Mr. Osborne was convicted of a home invasion and is awaiting sentence for that crime.

Thursday’s ruling in District Attorney’s Office v. Osborne, No. 08-6, reversed a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Joining Chief Justice Roberts in the majority were Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

I agree this isn't the best case to get a judgement and this person clearly isn't a saint, but DNA is supposedly good enough to convict people but not to find them innocent once convicted.

This is a crazy decision if new technology can undermine your conviction why should you be denied access to it. If you got convicted as a serial murderer but the murders continued would you be denied access to the new police files which could prove you innocent if the same MO was being used?

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This is all getting past a joke now.

OK i know a lot are wasting tax payers money that the judges lap up in wages but if the cons have a good case then they have a right to justice.

i also think a lot of so called pedofiles are being set up which is sad as in the end it will allow the real sick ba$tards to get away with what they are doing.

reds in the beds, terrorists in the kitchen and pedo's in the bathroom makes me ask were am i safe in my own home.

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