Access to DNA evidence

October 11, 2010
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When it’s a matter of life or death, wouldn’t you want to be sure – really sure – that you had convicted the correct person of murder? Especially when that person has been sentenced to die for the crime?

One of the Indianapolis news stations ran a short story about the Texas case, Skinner v. Switzer, No. 09-9000, which the Supreme Court of the United States will hear Wednesday. Skinner’s on Texas’ death row and the nation’s highest court stopped his execution earlier this year to take a look at his case.

The issue – if Skinner can sue in a civil rights claim to get access to DNA evidence for testing or whether this can only be asserted in a petition for writ of habeas corpus.

The news piece said Skinner had been convicted in 1995 of killing his girlfriend and her two adult sons. He always maintained his innocence and wants DNA tests done on the blood and other biological evidence found at the crime scene. According to his brief before the court, only the blood stains on his clothes were tested.

The argument against letting him have access to the evidence for testing is that he had the chance to have it tested at trial, but didn’t do so, and he didn’t meet a key requirement – sufficient evidence to prove his innocence – to be eligible for additional testing under Texas law. There’s also the belief that last year’s SCOTUS ruling in Osborne prevents Skinner’s attempt at testing the evidence. In Osborne, a 5-4 court ruled the man had no right to pay for a DNA test to prove his innocence and allowing him to do so would risk overthrowing the established system of criminal justice.

I was confused when Osborne came down and I’m still puzzled as to why our court system wouldn’t want to make sure that they’ve got the right person when it comes to people on death row? Maybe it’s because I’m not a lawyer and don’t know all the procedures when it comes to DNA testing. Perhaps someone reading this blog can help me understand, but if the evidence exists, and it’s not going to cost the state anything to test it, why not do it to be sure? We read cases all the time of people who sat in prison for years only to be exonerated later on. See today’s daily for an example of that. Why not allow Skinner the chance for testing?


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.