A Tennessee death-row inmate can use DNA evidence in an attempt to attempt to show his innocence 20 years after he was convicted of murdering a neighbor, the Supreme Court said today in a 5-3 ruling, reports the Associated Press. The decision is significant because numerous exonerations in recent years of death-row and other criminal defendants through DNA testing have raised concerns that an innocent person may be executed, or already has been. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the evidence was a “close” call for a jury but that Paul Gregory House could proceed with a federal lawsuit claiming innocence for the murder of a woman in 1985.
Twenty years after his conviction, DNA testing revealed that semen found on the murder victim’s nightgown and underwear belonged to her husband, not House. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented. Justice Samuel Alito did not participate in the case because it was argued before he joined the high court. Kennedy said jurors could find reasonable doubt because DNA evidence points to the woman’s husband as a suspect.