On Monday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District, et al. v. Osborne out of Alaska. I have blogged before about Osborne; it’s a hugely important case both for the work we do here freeing innocent people and for Americans in general, as it could affirm a Constitutional right for inmates to acquire DNA testing.
The case has received a mountain of media attention. Editorials have run in the New York Times, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska’s largest newspaper. Articles have appeared on CNN’s website and on Anderson Cooper’s blog.
But some of the reports are less than promising. It is unfortunate that lawyers for the Obama administration, for example, have taken such a hardline stance against the right to DNA testing. (Some of that might be due to the fact that they have inherited the case from the previous administration.)
The new deputy Solicitor General for the Obama administration urged the Supreme Court today to go slow in giving prisoners a right to seek DNA testing that could free them.
“Our position is there is no constitutional right to DNA,” Neal Katyal, a former Georgetown law professor, told the justices.
…”It is a no-cost proposition for the defendant,” he said, and could “open the floodgates” to legal suits seeking new tests of old evidence.
An article in McClatchy paints a somewhat grim picture that makes it seem at least like this will be a serious nail-biter.
Supreme Court justices appeared closely divided Monday over claims by an Alaska inmate that the Constitution guarantees a right to post-conviction DNA testing.
The court’s most conservative members are clearly aligned against inmate William Osborne, who was convicted of assaulting a prostitute known only as K.G. The court’s most liberal members sounded sympathetic to expanded testing. At most, the odds appear to favor a narrow decision.
A decision is not due for months in the case, but we will continue to watch for developments.