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Court denies automatic post-conviction DNA testing

DNA may be the most powerful personal identification tool available, but the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution does not require DNA testing for criminals after they are convicted, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thursday’s ruling in District Attorney’s Office v. Osborne may not have a dramatic effect on the wrongly convicted, according to criminal defense attorneys.  In most cases, state law requires DNA testing or prosecutors consent to testing without a court order, according to Peter Neufield with the Innocence Project, who argued the case.

In Osborne, an Alaska man convicted of assault sought a DNA test on evidence from the crime scene. Prosecutors refused, but the 9th Circuit said Brady v. Maryland required the government to provide the test, even after conviction.  The Supreme Court reversed, saying the Due Process Clause does not create post-conviction disclosure obligations.

Alaska is only one of three states – with Massachusetts and Oklahoma – that do not provide a specific post-conviction right to DNA evidence.

By Peter Vieth, with material from Lawyers USA.

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