What's this Blog About?

Politics in Wisconsin as they roll up to every level... and some other thoughts that may cross my mind are explored here from my lefty point of view. My values shape my opinions. You'll always find them in here. Let's have some fun exploring why Liberal values are American values!

Your comments are both welcome and encouraged!
(The watercolor is called Magnolia Tree for Momma, by Audrey Crawford)

Friday, June 19, 2009

SCOTUS Rules Access to DNA to Prove Innocence NOT a Constitutional Right

That's right. The Supreme Court of the United States said in a ruling this week that if a defendant has had a "fair trial", they have no right after the fact to access the DNA evidence available to prove their innocence.

Let me say that again. If you have been convicted of a crime and you believe you are innocent and a new DNA test method is developed years later that could prove your innocence, you do NOT have a right under the Constitution to test that evidence or test that evidence again even if you pay to do the testing!

In other words, the hundreds of people exonerated on DNA evidence around the country would no longer have had the right to prove their innocence. Even if it means they will die or spend the rest of their life in prison for a crime they did not commit. This means thousands of people in prison or on death row convicted before DNA testing became available or the newest methods were developed, could die or rot in prison if they are innocent.

I just want you to imagine this is you. You KNOW you didn't rape and kill someone. You are convicted of it on circumstancial evidence maybe just wrong place wrong time and sitting in prison every day locked up with people who did commit their crimes and you find out that a new testing method that could prove you did not do it has been developed, but the state you live in says, "No, you can't have the evidence to retest it." They can now do that and you will sit in prison for life or until the state changes it's mind.

Now what the court says is not that you can't have it, just that the STATE can tell you you can't have it. So in some states, the legislature will pass laws that say, yeah, you can have it and in other states they could decide, no, once there's a conviction we're done with it.

Now read this article and think of this ruling in the context of the Milwaukee serial killer. In particular pay attention to the last lines of the article posted below and the lines I bolded:

Police believe the killer had sex with the runaway, but she was killed by someone else.

The developments have prompted officials to form a local, state and federal task force to investigate the homicides. A state lab is working to determine whether the DNA of at least 23 other slain prostitutes matches that of the killer.

"In the past, we might have linked some of these homicides through their method of operation, but theory has given way to technology," said Edward Flynn, the Milwaukee police chief. "Within the last couple of weeks, we have been able to confirm a link."

Flynn, who described the killer as an "unknown suspect who conducts his business in secret," said the investigation would require tips from the community.

"This suspect has been able to avoid and evade law enforcement for these last 23 years. He has never been arrested for a felony as he does not appear in any DNA database," Flynn said.

Police said 42 prostitutes were killed between 1986 and 2007, and that 31 percent of the cases have been solved. There has been a higher clearance rate -- 78 percent -- in other homicides.

Of the seven killed, two were in 1986, three in 1995, one in 1997 and one in 2007. The runaway was one of the three killed in 1995.

Flynn said there have been "patterned homicides" discovered across the country as a result of advanced DNA technology, citing investigations in Los Angeles, California; Mesa, Arizona; and Las Vegas, Nevada. However, he said there is no link with the Milwaukee cases.

In discussing advances in DNA technology, Flynn said there were no matches in 1990s, two around 2000 and the seven have been linked in recent weeks.

"We already have determined that five suspects in murders of other prostitutes -- completely unrelated to this investigation -- have been identified because their DNA match open homicide cases. Three of them already are in prison for cleared homicides of prostitutes," police said in a statement Tuesday.

Three men were exonerated in Wisconsin this year because the state of Wisconsin finally decided to test the evidence with new methods. Those men sat in prison KNOWING they were innocent of rape and murder and yet had what was considered "fair trials" that were wrong.

They happen to be in Wisconsin and Milwaukee's new police chief apparently decided that 42 prostitute murders in Milwaukee in 21 years deserved a second look, but under the new Supreme Court decision, these three men had NO other recourse than to wait for the state to decide to retest evidence, while the real killer kept on killing...

50 states, 50 legislatures, thousands of police departments and each one gets to make up it's own rules on this.

The outrage of this is that the Supreme Court of the United States of America essentially decided that the right to prove innocence is no longer a part of the phrase "due process". Until Congress acts to restore it, this is now the law of this country.

State legislatures must act quickly to restore the rights at the state level. Congress must act to explicitly spell out this right nationally. Before potentially innocent people die on death rows in states that refuse to retest, before another innocent person spends another lifetime locked up for a crime they didn't commit.

Yes, this is the SCOTUS that George W. Bush gave us when he appointed Roberts and Alito to the Court. This is the new nightmare for individual rights in this country, a court that is dismantling them one by one... and the result is that Congress will be running around spending time passing laws trying to undo the damage instead of working on fixing our country's economic mess.

Can you tell I'm just a little upset about this one?

More on the serial killing in the next post... This deserves it's own discussion...


Georgia said...

Alito is so damned biased there can't be any opinion but his.... well, in his mind. (See his interview in the 60 minutes archives)

How do they arrive at that lamitude? BECAUSE - if DNA evidence could be accessed by convicted felons - those felons COULD be exhonorated. OHHHHHHHH - NOOOOOOOOOO - that would mean DAs/PROSECUTORS would have to take responsibility for setting those NON FELONS free... and actually convicting the guilty parties. (We certainly can't have that- can we?)

Don't know that Sotomayor will be all that different - but at least there will be another glimpse of the feminine side of justice. I'm certainly ready for that!!!!!

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