Friday, June 19, 2009

Court Upholds States in DNA Testing

"A criminal defendant proved guilty after a fair trial does not have the same liberty interests as a free man," Chief Justice Roberts wrote, adding that it remains an "open question"whether "proof of 'actual innocence'" is enough to overturn a conviction after a fair trial.

Huh? I know I am not a great legal mind, but that baffles me: it remains an "open question" whether "proof of 'actual innocence'" is enough to overturn a conviction after a fair trial.?

What is it? You got your chance, and there are no do-overs?

The court found that the Constitution's Due Process Clause doesn't require the government to provide Mr. Osborne access to evidence simply because modern DNA testing was virtually certain to establish whether semen and pubic hairs found at the crime scene matched his.

That seems an exclusion of relevant evidence.

The opinion observed that the federal government and all but a handful of states require such reviews under certain circumstances. It was better to let Congress, state legislatures and state courts develop the proper role for such testing, rather than "constitutionalize the issue," the chief justice wrote, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

It Is So Ordered: Supreme Court decisions so far this term

Advances in DNA technology "cannot mean that every criminal conviction, or even every criminal conviction involving biological evidence is suddenly in doubt," Chief Justice Roberts wrote. "The dilemma is how to harness DNA's power to prove innocence without unnecessarily overthrowing the established system of criminal justice."

Labored reasoning. Judicial activism.
Dissenters, led by Justice John Paul Stevens, accused the majority of elevating a state's interest in "protecting the finality" of convictions over "ensuring that justice is done."

Justice Stevens wrote that the state had refused to provide access to the evidence even though the burden was minimal, Mr. Osborne would pick up the testing's cost, and all agreed that the results would be "conclusive confirmation of Osborne's guilt or revelation of his innocence." He called the state's position "arbitrary" and "wholly unjustified." Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer joined all or part of Justice Stevens's dissent.

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