US Supreme Court Case on DNA Tests

There has been a recent number of stories in the written press and TV media about convicted prisoners who are seeking to use modern DNA technology to see if that DNA technology can produce evidence that will get them a new trial. The science and technology behind DNA evidence is really less than a decade old, and many convicts (who claim that they did not have access to the technology at the time of their prosecution) assert claims that they are actually innocent and that DNA evidence will prove that innocence.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court has entered the fray with the decision of Skinner v. Switzer. In short, this decision basically holds that convicts can file "civil rights" lawsuits to force the authorities to give them access to DNA technology. Prosecutors had argued that once a defendant had exhausted all of that defendant's appeals in the state court system, then they should not be able (sometimes years later) to file a "federal" civil lawsuit to seek evidence that they should have sought out and used in the original "state" criminal trial process. The Supreme Court rejected the prosecution argument, but made it clear that just because the convict files that lawsuit does not mean that he will win that lawsuit. The convict will still have to prove that his civil rights were violated (this is a complicate process in the federal court system). Nevertheless, we expect that a new increased number of civil rights lawsuits will be filed by long-incarcerated convicts to seek DNA relief.