Last week the Supreme Court decided District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne in favor of the District Attorney’s Office. Although this was technically a civil case, it deals with federal constitutional criminal issues. Mr. Osborne was convicted of kidnapping, assault, and sexual assault in the early 1990s. An early type of DNA testing on the main evidence against him cleared other suspects, but could not narrow the perpetrator down to less than 5% of the population. Mr. Osborne sought access to the evidence now to subject it to a newer type of DNA test that can determine whether biological evidence matches an individual with near certainty.
The Court recognized the power of DNA testing in both exonerating wrongly convicted people and confirming the convictions of others. However, the Court’s “dilemma [was] how to harness DNA’s power to prove innocence without unnecessarily overthrowing the established system of criminal justice.” In a disappointing and surprising 5-4 decision, the Court rejected Osborne’s argument for a Due Process right to DNA evidence.
An insightful analysis of the case by a staff attorney for the Innocence Project is available at this post in the American Constitution Society Blog.
Information on the flaws in the criminal justice system that lead to wrongful convictions of innocent people is available at The Innocence Project’s website, along with information on individual cases. Cases here in Georgia are handled by the Georgia Innocence Project, with information on their website. The Osborne opinion is available here.