Justices To Hear Case On Convicts’ Rights To DNA Tests


William Osborne, has claimed that advanced DNA tests on a condom found in Alaska in 1993 would prove his innocence, but prosecutors in Alaska say that he is not entitled to them. It appears that no one convicted of a crime in Alaska has ever been able to get a DNA test after trial, says New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer, quoting a brief filed by Osborne's lawyers, and no state law says that prisoners must be given them. Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Alaska prosecutors argue that Osborne got a fair trial and does not have a constitutional right to such tests.

New York City filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Alaska's position. The city does not want the Supreme Court to declare that prisoners have a constitutional right to testing because New York already has a statute that allows it, said Leonard Koerner, the city's chief appellate lawyer. For the criminal justice system, DNA testing has been a subversive technology, Dwyer says. The tests have shown the weakness of traditional tools used in courtrooms to get at the truth: Eyewitness can be wrong. People will confess to crimes they had nothing to do with. There is misconduct and laziness by defense lawyers, prosecutors, and the police. Osborne's legal team argues that the constitutional right of due process entitles him to the tests.

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