David Kirkpatrick

June 18, 2009

Supreme Court fails DNA testing case

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:50 pm

In a 5-4 decision (take a guess at the line-up on both sides of that vote), the Supreme Court ruled convicted prisoners do not have the right to DNA testing to attempt to prove their innocence. The majority cited the fact 46 states already allow for DNA testing post-conviction as reason that ability should remain with the states.

If these contentious 5-4 ruling keep happening with the same five siding for the power of statism and corporate interests over individual liberty I’m guessing the Roberts court will be seen as phenomenally regressive.

Many of the current court’s decisions run against popular sentiment and even against the stated judicial views of those deciding in the majority. There is a very real sense of situational justice at play, and that is not the role of the Supreme Court.

From the link:

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a dissent expressing his dismay that the majority had chosen to approve of Alaska’s denial of the evidence sought by the defendant. “The DNA test Osborne seeks is a simple one, its cost modest, and its results uniquely precise,” Justice Stevens said.

Since 1992, 238 people in the United States, some who were sitting on death row, have been exonerated of crimes through DNA testing. In many of those cases, the DNA testing used to clear them was not available at the time of the crime.

But several aspects of the Osborne case did not make the defendant a sympathetic one, so perhaps his case was not the ideal vehicle for those hoping that the nation’s highest court would find a constitutional right to “post-conviction” DNA testing — that is, after the normal appeals have been exhausted.

Here’s Reason mag’s Radley Balko on the case:

Representing the convicted man, the Innocence Project argued that a right to access a simple test that could establish actual innocence would be covered by the Constitution’s due process clause.

I wrote about the case, District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne, for The Daily Beast last March.

Update: via @radleybalko, head below the fold for the Innocence Project’s reaction. (more…)

January 12, 2008

Doing good in Dallas

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:11 pm

I must give some praise for my hometown district attorney — Dallas County DA Craig Watkins. He won the job in a recent municipal election that swept Democrats into what had previously been a very GOP-centric judicial system.

He’s a trailblazer in many ways, not least of which is being the first black DA in Texas. What really sets Watkins apart, though, is alongside fighting local crime he’s also focused on undoing the past wrongs of his office (link goes to Google search).

Watkins is working with the Innocence Project to set free the innocent sent behind bars by DAs past. Thirteen people have been exonerated in Dallas County since 2001 and Watkins has a task force looking into more than 350 additional past convictions.