Convicts Don't Have Right to Test DNA: Supreme Court

By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 18, 2009 9:54 AM CDT
Members of the Supreme Court await the arrival of President Barack Obama prior to his address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber of the Capitol in Washington , Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – The Supreme Court said today that convicts have no constitutional right to test DNA evidence in hopes of proving their innocence long after they were found guilty of a crime. The court ruled 5-4, with the conservative justices in the majority, against William Osborne, an Alaska man convicted in a brutal attack on a prostitute 16 years ago. But the decision may have limited impact because the federal government and 47 states already have laws that allow convicts some access to genetic evidence.

"To suddenly constitutionalize this area would short-circuit what looks to be a prompt and considered legislative response," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. But Justice John Paul Stevens said in dissent that a simple test would settle the matter. "The court today blesses the state's arbitrary denial of the evidence Osborne seeks," Stevens said.