The Department of Justice will support the Bush administration’s position in District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne, turning down a request from the Innocence Project to reverse the previous administration’s position, reports BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. The case involves prisoners’ access to DNA evidence in postconviction proceedings in the state of Alaska. Alaska’s view is that prisoners do not have the constitutional right to obtain DNA evidence to help them prove their innocence, even if the prisoners pay all of the expenses.
President Obama’s decision in this matter has caught some by surprise, given the success of DNA evidence in exonerating prisoners, as well as the president’s support for access to DNA evidence when he was a state senator in Illinois.
The specifics: In 1993, William Osbourne was convicted of sexual assault and kidnapping in the death of a prostitute. During the trial, Osbourne’s lawyer did not request a DNA test of semen in a condom found at the scene of the crime. When Osbourne appealed his conviction, Alaska courts said he was not entitled to DNA evidence for testing. That ruling was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and now Alaska has brought the case before the Supreme Court.
Deputy solicitor general Neal Katyal will be representing the government, while Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, will represent Osbourne.