Diverse voices from across the criminal justice system filed friend-of-the-court briefs this week urging the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize that the federal Constitution allows prisoners access to DNA testing that could prove their innocence. The Innocence Project represents an Alaska man who is seeking DNA testing that could prove his innocence; the Supreme Court will hear the case next month.
Among the individuals and groups filing on behalf of William Osborne were current and former prosecutors, who argue that the majority of prosecutors are willing to review cases where DNA testing could change a verdict – but that relying solely on the unfettered discretion of prosecutors can sanction injustice. A group of crime victims also filed a brief, including a woman who was raped by a man who remained at large while an innocent person was in prison for his previous crimes.
“These briefs reflect the growing consensus that everyone – prosecutors, defendants, crime victims, the government and society – has an interest in making sure people have access to DNA testing that can prove innocence,” said Peter Neufeld, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. Neufeld will argue the case at the Supreme Court on March 2. “In the vast majority of cases, prisoners are granted DNA testing under state law or because prosecutors consent to testing without a court order. Alaska is the exception. It is the only state in the nation with no known case of a prisoner receiving DNA testing, either through court order or a prosecutor’s consent. This case involves a very important constitutional protection – one that is the only option for William Osborne.”
Oral arguments in William Osborne’s case will be heard March 2.
Read more about the case, and download the Innocence Project brief