Thursday, June 18, 2009

Supreme Court Rules In Convict DNA Case

On November 11, 2008 we published a post about the Supreme Court agreeing to hear a case involving whether people convicted of a crime have a constitutional right to have the DNA collected in their case tested in hopes of proving their innocence. The case involves William Osborne who was convicted of a rape 16 years ago. Osborne was seeking to have a blue condom tested for his DNA. He argued that such a test would establish his innocence. The Supreme Court denied his request ruling that Osborne did not have a constitutional right to have the DNA tested. The Supreme Court overruled the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco which had ruled that Osborne did have a constitutional right to the DNA test. This decision was a 5 to 4 decision, with the conservative justices in the majority. However, the impact of this decision may be limited. The federal government and 47 already have laws that allow convicts some access to DNA evidence. Such testing has led to the exoneration of at least 232 convicts that had been wrongfully convicted of such crimes as murder and rape. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts refused to impose a constitutional requirement for fear of interfering with the actions already taken by the states and the federal government.

Osborne was convicted of raping and beating a woman with an ax handle in Alaska. He left her for dead in the snow near the Anchorage Airport. A blue condom was found near the victim and was used in the attack. The victim identified Osborne as one of the attackers, and another man convicted in the attack has implicated Osborne in the crime. Osborne admitted his guilt in a hearing before the parole board in 2004. At trial, Osborne's lawyer passed up an offer to have the DNA tested out of fear that such a test would conclusively implicate Osborne. Osborne is currently in prison awaiting sentencing for another robbery committed after he was paroled for this rape.

The case is District Attorney's Office v. Osborne, 08-6.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

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