DNA Testing and Constitutional Rights

Over the past two decades later, DNA evidence has been used to exonerate more than 230 people wrongfully convicted nationwide. This includes including 24 here in New York State.

In an effort to prevent more wrongful convictions, last week prosecutors and victims of crime joined people exonerated with DNA testing and leading legal rights organizations urged the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize that the federal Constitution allows prisoner’s access to DNA testing that could prove their innocence.

The Innocence Project reported that 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.

We’ll keep you updated on what happens on the case in March. We couldn’t agree more with Peter Nuefeld, the Innocence Project Co-Director who said, “Our Constitution gives every citizen the right to prove that he’s innocent.”