Spitting 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled today that an individual whose criminal conviction has become final does not have a constitutional right to gain access to evidence so that it can be subjected to DNA testing seeking to prove innocence, reports Scotusblog.com. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that DNA testing provides “an unparalleled ability” to prove innocence or guilt but its availability “cannot mean that every criminal conviction, or even every criminal conviction involving biological evidence, is suddenly in doubt.”
The task of writing rules to control access to DNA evidence “belongs primarily” to the legislature, Roberts said. Two justices who joined the majority said in a separate opinion that they would have gone further in rejecting the DNA access claim in the case, asserting that such claims should not be pursued in a civil rights lawsuit, but through a habeas plea and only after trying the challenge in state court. The Associated Press said the ruling’s impact may be limited because the federal government and 47 states have laws that allow convicts some access to genetic evidence.