A South Carolina judge barred Bobby Lee Holmes’s lawyer from presenting evidence that someone else killed a woman and confessed to it, says the Christian Science Monitor. At the trial’s end, a state prosecutor told the jury that Holmes must be the murderer because no evidence had been presented suggesting someone else might have done it. Today, the Supreme Court will consider whether a South Carolina rule that lets judges prevent the accused from blaming someone else violates their constitutional right to a fair trial. At issue is whether the Constitution requires that a defendant be allowed to present what he or she believes to be a full defense.
The case arises amid increased reliance in the criminal-justice system on forensic science. Judges may be inclined to place much trust in evidence that emerges from a laboratory, experts say. Forensic specialists warn that results are only as reliable as the methods used during the investigation. Holmes’s judge cited the reliability of DNA and trace fiber evidence as a reason to discount evidence pointing to someone else as the killer. DNA evidence found on Holmes’s underwear matched both Holmes and the victim.