Prosecutors, Crime Victims, People Exonerated with DNA Testing and Others Urge U.S. Supreme Court to Recognize Constitutional Right to Post-Conviction DNA Testing
Amicus briefs filed in Innocence Project case set for oral argument March 2 at U.S. Supreme Court
(WASHINGTON, DC; February 5, 2009) – Prosecutors and victims of crime joined people exonerated with DNA testing and leading legal rights organizations this week urging the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize that the federal Constitution allows prisoners access to DNA testing that could prove their innocence.
Five amicus briefs were filed on behalf of William Osborne, an Innocence Project client, who has been seeking DNA testing for eight years to prove his innocence. Osborne was convicted of rape, attempted murder and related charges in 1993 in Alaska. Alaska is one of just six states without a law permitting prisoners to apply for post-conviction DNA testing. Prosecutors in Alaska have refused to permit Osborne to conduct DNA testing at his own expense, even though they concede that favorable DNA results would “conclusively prove Osborne’s innocence.” In 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny him access to DNA testing, and the state appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments in the case on March 2.
One amicus brief is from current and former prosecutors with nearly a century of prosecutorial experience at the local, state and federal levels, each of whom have substantial experience with DNA testing in criminal cases. Another is from victims and victims’ family members who have been profoundly impacted by post-conviction DNA testing. A third brief was filed by several of the 232 people nationwide who have been exonerated with post-conviction DNA testing, and another was filed by people who were granted clemency because of DNA testing. An amicus brief was also filed by leading civil liberties and legal rights organizations. Each of the briefs is summarized below, with links to the full text.
“These briefs reflect the growing consensus that everyone – prosecutors, defendants, crime victims, the government and society – has an interest in making sure people have access to DNA testing that can prove innocence,” said Peter Neufeld, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. Neufeld will argue the case at the Supreme Court next month. “In the vast majority of cases, prisoners are granted DNA testing under state law or because prosecutors consent to testing without a court order. Alaska is the exception. It is the only state in the nation with no known case of a prisoner receiving DNA testing, either through court order or a prosecutor’s consent. This case involves a very important constitutional protection – one that is the only option for William Osborne.”
Follow the links below for summaries of the five briefs, with links to each full brief:
Innocence Project press release: Innocence Project, Representing Alaska Man in U.S. Supreme Court Case, Says Constitution Allows Post-Conviction DNA Tests (1/27/09)
Innocence Blog: The Constitutional Right to DNA Testing (1/27/09)