Thursday, June 18, 2009

SCROTUS: Better To Keep An Innocent Person In Jail Than Cast Doubt On The Prosecution

Margin: 5-to-4, Roberts, Sc/Alito, Unca Thom, and A. ("Meese") Kennedy in the affirmative. With Sotomayor, it might well have gone 6-3, as she's very friendly to the perquisites of the State.
Court finds convicts have no right to test DNA

WASHINGTON (YahooNews)– The Supreme Court said Thursday that convicts have no constitutional right to test DNA evidence in hopes of proving their innocence long after they were found guilty of a crime.

The decision may have limited impact because the federal government and 47 states already have laws that allow convicts some access to genetic evidence. Testing so far has led to the exoneration of 240 people who had been found guilty of murder, rape and other violent crimes, according to the Innocence Project.

The court ruled 5-4, with its conservative justices in the majority, against an Alaska man who was convicted in a brutal attack on a prostitute 16 years ago.

William Osborne won a federal appeals court ruling granting him access to a blue condom that was used during the attack. Osborne argued that testing its contents would firmly establish his innocence or guilt.

In parole proceedings, however, Osborne has admitted his guilt in a separate bid for release from prison.

The high court reversed the ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. States already are dealing with the challenges and opportunities presented by advances in genetic testing, Chief Justice John Roberts said in his majority opinion.

"To suddenly constitutionalize this area would short-circuit what looks to be a prompt and considered legislative response," Roberts said. Alaska, Massachusetts and Oklahoma are the only states without DNA testing laws. In some other states, the laws limit testing to capital crimes or rule out after-the-fact tests for people who confess.

But Justice John Paul Stevens said in dissent that a simple test would settle the matter. "The court today blesses the state's arbitrary denial of the evidence Osborne seeks," Stevens said.

Peter Neufeld, a co-founder of The Innocence Project who argued Osborne's case at the Supreme Court, said he was disappointed with the ruling.

"There is no question that a small group of innocent people — and it is a small group — will languish in prison because they can't get access to the evidence," Neufeld said. The Innocence Project helps free wrongly convicted prisoners.
I am pretty much always skeptical when folks say it is only a small number of people who have been improperly convicted. I think the number is quite large, and that most are th result of "political" convictions. Also I believe it is NEVER a good idea to give more punitive power to the State against the individual; it is ALWAYS a good idea to give the State more power to regulate corporations, which should in any case be deprived of their favored "person" status.

Recently the Court ruled that accused persons do not have the right to refuse to answer police interrogators unless they have legal representation, which seems to me to be a victory for police-state tactics. This should come as no surprise, as our political liberties have increasingly been traded for the (spurious) assurances of physical security, so our personal liberties are also subordinated to preserving the legitimacy of the security apparati of the penal system.


Ruth said...

You know the Supremes are in a bad state when TX is ahead of them.

jaytingle said...

Ever heard of the West Memphis 3? It is extremely difficult to show up a prosecutor. It gets to the very core of the concept of justice. The justices are saying, "to find injustice, after the fact, in settled justice is to cast doubt upon all justice." Jail is a small price, for small people.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

"to find injustice, after the fact, in settled justice is to cast doubt upon all justice."

You say that like it's a BAD thing?