Jun 18, 2009

Prisoners Do Not Have a Right to DNA Tests

Whenever possible, the criminal justice system looks to DNA testing to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent. In some cases, DNA testing has exonerated prisoners who were wrongly convicted and imprisoned years earlier.

Not surprisingly, prisoners are increasingly demanding DNA testing.  However, in a case entitled District Attorney's Office v. Osborne (2009) the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution does not require that prisoners be given access to DNA testing.

Osborne is unlikely to make a dramatic impact, since all but 4 states already authorize DNA testing for at least some prisoners. And given the backlog existing in many DNA testing labs, a decision that prisoners had a right to have DNA tests performed might have created a huge priority conflict between pending cases and closed cases.