Supreme Court Hears DNA Case
Today, the Supreme Court will start hearing a case that debates whether a convicted rapist has the constitutional right to perform DNA testing on genetic material gathered at a crime scene in Alaska over 14 years ago.
In 1994, William Osborne received a 26-year prison sentence after he was convicted of assault, sexual assault and kidnapping. He claims that modern, more advanced DNA tests can prove he was wrongfully convicted of these crimes.
While 43 states, as well as the federal government, give convicts access to DNA tests (particularly in older cases in which DNA testing was never done due to lack of this technology at the time), seven states in the U.S. don’t have laws giving this right to convicts. Alaska is one of these seven states.
Details of the Case
In 1993, two Alaskan men picked up a prostitute, drove her to a secluded location and severely beat her with an axe handle. After forcing her to engage in various sex acts, they shot the woman, partially covered her with snow and left her for dead.
Despite the violent nature of these crimes, the prostitute survived and ultimately testified that Osborne was one of the men who brutally attacked and raped her. The other man convicted of these crimes also affirmed Osborne’s participation.
At the time of his arrest, Osborne confessed to the crimes. While the convict is now professing his innocence, he and his lawyer claim that the initial confession was given out of Osborne’s desire to expedite the case, as he knew he was going to be convicted of the crimes due to compelling eyewitness testimony.
Should Osborne Be Allowed to Use DNA Tests?
In the appeals to his conviction, Osborne has asked the court to grant him permission to use more sophisticated, modern-day DNA tests to prove his innocence. According to Osborne and his attorneys, the DNA tests of modern times are far more technologically advanced than those used at the time of his trial and conviction. If allowed to use these tests, Osborne claims he can prove he was not involved in the rape, beating and kidnapping.
One Court of Appeals has already ruled that Osborne should be granted access to modern DNA tests, as the point of the conviction is to serve justice, and justice will not be served if an innocent man is being imprisoned.
The Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision in the coming weeks.
(Source: New York Times)
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