Justices to weigh inmate rights to testing of DNA

Savage is a Times staff writer.

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether prison inmates have a constitutional right to obtain the testing of old DNA evidence that might set them free.

In the last decade, DNA evidence has convicted many defendants and freed many others. California and 43 other states, along with the District of Columbia, have adopted laws that give prisoners a right to seek the testing of DNA evidence in the government’s files.

The court voted to take up a case from Alaska, one of six states that do not give inmates this right. Along with a second man, William G. Osborne was convicted of kidnapping, rape and assault in a 1993 attack on a prostitute outside Anchorage. His lawyer did not seek the testing of a condom found near the scene. After his conviction, Osborne sued to obtain testing of the condom. State lawyers opposed the motion, but in April, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Osborne had a right to have the material tested because it might prove his innocence.


The case, District Attorney’s Office vs. Osborne, will be heard early next year.