Tuesday, November 4, 2008

U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Case on Access to DNA Testing

The U.S. Supreme Court said today that it will review an Alaska case on whether defendants have the right to DNA testing that can prove innocence. 

The Innocence Project represents William Osborne, who was convicted of rape and related charges in 1994. The state has fought motions for DNA testing that could prove Osborne’s innocence. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled that Osborne has a constitutional right to DNA testing, but the state appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.

If the new testing shows that Mr. Osborne was indeed guilty, prosecutors should be pleased, the Ninth Circuit said. And if the testing points to his innocence, prosecutors should still be pleased, because the state’s paramount interests are in “seeking justice, not obtaining convictions at all costs,” and the tests will yield better evidence to catch and convict “the real perpetrator.” 

Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck said today that the state has no justification to deny DNA testing when it can prove guilt or innocence. In a statement issued today, Scheck said:
“The State of Alaska concedes that DNA testing could prove William Osborne’s innocence, while fighting his right to testing. Why would anyone be afraid to learn the truth in this case? There is no rational reason to deny DNA testing that could prove innocence or confirm guilt.

“We believe that people clearly have a constitutional right to post-conviction DNA testing when it can prove innocence. Many courts have recognized this right, and we’re optimistic that the Supreme Court will affirm it if they reach that question in this case.”

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