Friday, November 14, 2008

New toy

I've finally taken the 10 seconds necessary to Google and select a website that tracks Supreme Court news (cases on the docket, cases decided). I'm looking forward to upcoming case District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne, mostly because it proposes the issue of plaintiffs' access to the state's biological evidence in order to test the DNA. Why, on the face of it, would the state oppose such access? In this case, we're talking about a convicted felon who wants to test the condom and hairs found at the scene of the crime.

Supposing that the DNA evidence could exonerate him, why would the state actively want to keep an innocent man in jail? I am supposing that the state is concerned about inconclusive results of some kind (though how exactly, I don't know -- insufficient biological material, perhaps). There's also the specter of financial burden and judicial chaos as felons rush to get access to just about anything to test for possible skin cells left on surfaces, etc. Fortunately, I think this will be less of a factor as the years go on. But I have to go look at how this is done. I would hope that the material is sent to an independent testing firm who sends results to both sides, but I suppose that all this still leaves everything open to bloody-glove police conspiracies. It's a tangle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm a total SCOTUS junkie, too. Nina Totenberg at NPR does the best coverage, and Dahlia Lithwick at slate is the most interesting analyst I have read.

As to why the government would want to restrict access, you have to remember that prosecutors are after a conviction rate to boast to their constituents and many view the pursuit of justice more like a ledger than a scale, and that any way to tip the game in favor of "law and order" is to be used. the one metric prosecutors have is how many people they put and keep in jail.