Friday, June 19, 2009

Supreme Court Denies DNA Test for Alaska Rapist

CNN reports on a disappointing decision handed down by the Supreme Court.

A convicted rapist seeking to prove his innocence with a new DNA test lost his appeal Thursday at the Supreme Court.

The justices ruled 5-4 that inmates cannot use a federal civil rights law to press for advanced DNA testing that was unavailable at the time of the crime.

Forty-four states and the federal government have laws allowing post-conviction access to biological evidence for such testing, but that number does not include Alaska, where William Osborne was sentenced 15 years ago for a vicious attack on an Anchorage woman.

It seems unbelievable that the Justices would vote against something like this. By way of explanation, here's what the opinion offers.

"He has no constitutional right to obtain post-conviction access to the state's evidence for DNA testing," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. He was supported by his conservative colleagues Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said, "There is no reason to deny access to the evidence and there are many reasons to provide it, not the least of which is a fundamental concern in ensuring that justice has been done in this case." Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer backed his conclusions.

Isn't DNA testing the very means by which so many innocent people have been exonerated? Is the question for the conservative Justices simply whether the man has a constitutional right or not? Doesn't the dissenting idea that there "is no reason to deny access to the evidence" sound more reasonable? Do you think this sums up pretty well the difference between the conservative and liberal views?

Jeralyn referred to the opinion as a "setback," providing a link to the Inocence Project where they explain that this ruling will not affect the majority of cases.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.


  1. This Supreme Court decision clearly shows the sadistic mentality, lack of compassion, lack of knowledge of The Constitution and biased stupidity of these judges. How can they sleep at night, having handed down this ridiculous decision? Private prison companies have paid off politicians across the nation. I suppose they've infiltrated our judges, too.

  2. Ridiculous decision is right. It's hard to fathom.