No Constitutional right to DNA testing post-conviction?

June 18, 2009

The Supreme Court ruled today in the Osborne case that there is no inherent Constitutionally protected right to access DNA evidence post-conviction.  As Alito argues in his concurrence, “If a state prisoner wants to challenge the State’s refusal to permit postconviction DNA testing, the prisoner should proceed under the habeas statute, which duly accounts for the interests of federalism, comity, and finality.”  As Stevens points out in his dissent, “while acknowledging that Osborne may have a due process right to access the evidence under Alaska’s postconviction procedures, the Court concludes that Osborne has not yet availed himself of all possible avenues for relief in state court.”  He goes on to argue that “DNA evidence in this case would be so probative… that it exceeds the materiality standard that governs the disclosure of evidence under Brady[.]”  On the other hand, Alito maintains in his concurrence, “the State’s weighty interests cannot be summarily dismissed as “‘arbitrary, or conscience shocking.’

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