Supreme Court Hears Arguments in DNA Innocence Case
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in the William Osborne case. Osborne was convicted of rape in Alaska and alleges new DNA technology would prove he is factually innocent.
Alaska is one of several states that refuses to allow inmates to obtain DNA testing to prove innocence.
The Obama administration has taken Alaska’s side in arguing that Osborne has no right to access the biological evidence obtained in 1994, even if he pays for it. Today’s advanced tests could establish a match with a certainty of one in a billion. Former FBI Director William Sessions explains why Obama is wrong on this one. [More...]
As has been said many times, the Justice Department's mission is to do justice. It is not to seek a conviction—or to uphold one—at all costs.
What interest does Alaska have in denying Osborne access to this evidence, thus obscuring the truth?
To date, the Innocence Project says DNA has established the factual innocence of 232 inmates. The other states that don't allow testing: Alabama, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Mississippi and South Dakota. In some states, it's only available to death row inmates.
The New York Times has an editorial today on the right to DNA evidence.
DNA does not just free the innocent. It also helps capture the guilty. As the Times says,
In criminal law, there is a value in finality of verdicts — of not allowing prisoners to endlessly challenge their convictions. But when DNA is available that can prove that someone is wrongly being kept behind bars, due process requires the state to allow the testing to occur.
Innocence Project co-director Peter Neufeld argued the case for Osborne. The transcripts will be available this afternoon. Their resource page on the case is here.
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