Thursday, June 18, 2009

Supreme Court: 5-4 vote in Osborne DNA case

Facts surrounding the Osborne case on the right to DNA testing revealed an odd combination of states that do NOT allow access:

"To suddenly constitutionalize this area would short-circuit what looks to be a prompt and considered legislative response," Roberts said. Alaska, Massachusetts and Oklahoma are the only states without DNA testing laws.

One wonders how Massachusetts, one of the most "liberal" states in the nation is out of step with 47 other states.

Reuters wrote:

Forty-six states and the federal government have laws that give convicts some access to DNA testing, according to the decision. The ruling was a victory for Alaska, one state that does not explicitly allow such testing, along with Alabama, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma.

States opposed to the testing have said it would be costly and would result in unnecessary litigation in cases in which a defendant received a fair trial and there was overwhelming evidence supporting a guilty verdict. includes some relevant facts:

The facts of this case show how these principles come together. Osborne was convicted of kidnapping, assault, and sexual assault based on evidence including semen evidence analyzed under the DQ Alpha testing method, which matched Osborne. The DQ Alpha method can only narrow a sample down to approximately 5 percent of the population.

Osborne’s lawyer chose not to use the more accurate RFLP method of DNA testing available at the time, because she thought that he was guilty and planned a “mistaken identity” defense, which a positive identification by the more accurate method would scuttle. But the jury didn’t buy it, and Osborne was convicted. Finding it “nearly miraculous” that Osborne’s victim had survived his brutal assault, the judge sentenced Osborne to 26 years. Osborne appealed and lost.
After 14 years in prison, he was released on parole in 2007. Almost immediately, he committed another crime and was rearrested.

When he filed his first challenge to the conviction in Alaska court, the state supreme court determined that a convict had a right to DNA evidence when the conviction was based on eyewitness identification, there was doubt concerning the perpetrator’s identity, and scientific evidence would give a conclusive result. Osborne fell far short of that standard: he gave a sworn confession to the crime and boatloads of other evidence tied him to it, including the DNA test that had been performed.

This sounds like a waiver matter.

See also

LBE's piece in the UofC Roundtable: Comment: Frye after Daubert: The Role of Scientists in Admissibility Issues As Seen through Analysis of the DNA Profiling Cases

DNA profiling snags animal poachers

DNA analysis shows truth to "switched at birth"

Michigan man (Richard Barnes) scoffs at son's (John Barnes) suspicion he was taken:

John Barnes has long suspected the couple who raised him were not his biological parents(...)

Cheryl Barnes, Richard's daughter, said she was "flabbergasted" by John's claims and was willing to undergo DNA testing to prove they are biological siblings.
"I can't begin to know why he would think this," said Cheryl Barnes, 50. "Everybody in my family thinks John looks just like my dad."


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