The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Matthew Allee, (202) 580-6922 or

Effectiveness of Criminal Justice System Diminished by Today's Supreme Court Decision

Court denied post-conviction access to DNA evidence


The United States Supreme Court issued a troubling ruling this morning in District Attorney's Office v. Osborne,
denying an individual convicted of a crime access to DNA testing even
though both the prosecution and defense agree the evidence would prove
guilt or innocence. In its 5 to 4 opinion, the Court found that DNA
evidence has "an unparalleled ability" to prove a defendant's innocence
or guilt, but that "cannot mean that every criminal conviction, or even
every criminal conviction involving biological evidence, is suddenly in

The following statement by William S. Sessions,
member of the Constitution Project's Death Penalty Committee and former
director of the FBI, was published in a New York Times letter to the editor on May 27, 2009:

testing has the capacity to make law enforcement more effective - by
freeing the innocent and apprehending the guilty...As director of the
FBI in the late 1980s, I oversaw the creation of the bureau's first DNA
laboratory. The initial results were stunning: in approximately 30
percent of the cases, the DNA found during an investigation did not
match that of the suspect. In the last 20 years, that percentage has
dropped to 25 percent, but remains a rate far too high."

Constitution Project's Death Penalty Committee, which includes both
supporters and opponents of capital punishment, unanimously agreed that
DNA evidence should be preserved, that government officials should
consent to DNA testing and make it available to those convicted of
capital crimes, and that, if they do not, courts should order the
government to submit the evidence for testing. These recommendations
were made in the Committee's report, Mandatory Justice: The Death
Penalty Revisited, released in July 2005. To view the report, go to:

To see the full letter to the editor, go to:

The Constitution Project is a politically independent think tank established in 1997 to promote and defend constitutional safeguards. More information about the Constitution Project is available at