WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) The Supreme Court ruled today that convicts have no constitutional right to test DNA evidence to establish their guilt or innocence.
In its 5 to 4 ruling, the court decided against an Alaska man who was convicted in a brutal attack on a prostitute 16 years ago.
William Osborne had won a previous court ruling allowing him to test a condom used in the attack for DNA evidence, which he claimed would firmly establish his innocence or guilt.
In many states that would be possible. Forty-seven states already have laws that allow convicts some access to genetic evidence. But Alaska, where Osborne was tried, does not. So Osborne argued that he had a constitutional right to use federal laws which grant convicts access to DNA evidence.
The court disagreed.
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts suggested that the Court would be circumventing the legislative process of states in declaring that convicts can use federal law to demand DNA testing.
What does the ruling really mean?
In his blog today, CBS News Legal Correspondent Andrew Cohen writes that the Supreme Court, in taking a conservative view, is behind the science and the times. The further expansion of DNA testing, he argues, is unstoppable.