Thursday, June 18, 2009

No Right to DNA Testing

The U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision today in the case of William Osborne, an Alaska man convicted of assault, kidnapping and sexual assault in 1993. All parties had agreed that DNA testing, which Osborne was willing to fund would unequivocally determine his guilt or innocence. The court ruled that Osborne had no constitutional right to have such testing done--even at his own expense. Whether the state of Alaska will eventually permit such testing is unknown at this time, but the state is under no obligation to permit it.

According to the Innocence Project, the case will have limited impact because most states, unlike Alaska, have state statutes providing for such testing.

The high court's ruling, however, raises a more fundamental question: why would such testing not be in the interest of justice? Don't we as citizens have an interest in assuring that perpetrators of crimes are caught? Doesn't Alaska's refusal to submit the DNA to testing cause us to question the state's commitment to truth-seeking? And what of the five justices on the Supreme Court who signed off on this opinion? What is their commitment to truth-seeking?

If you think that the court's decision is flawed, here's your chance to raise your voice for change. Participate in the June 27 Freedom March. Details for the Colorado event are at If you reside in another state, check out the national web site at for links to a location near you.

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