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. Hello currently just withdrew from laporte county drug court and now I have lost the woman I love which also was in drugcourt and was put in jail without a,lawyer presentfor her own safety according to the judge and they told her she could have a hearing in two weeks and now going on 30days and still in jail no court date and her public defender talks like he,s bout to just sell her up the river.

  2. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  3. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  4. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  5. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

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