In District Attorney's Office v. Osborne, the United States Supreme Court addressed the central issue of whether Respondent William Osborne should have a "freestanding and far-reaching constitutional right of access" to the State's deoxyribonucleic acid ("DNA") evidence for the purpose of post-conviction relief. Osborne asserted this constitutional right of access under the federal civil rights statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, rather than proceeding through a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The United States District Court for the District of Alaska initially dismissed the respondent's claims, holding that an application for habeas corpus constituted the proper mechanism for applicants attempting to invalidate their criminal conviction. In its decision to reverse, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that Osborne was procedurally warranted in invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983 under the specific circumstances of his case. On remand, the district court granted Osborne summary judgment, stating that the respondent had "a very limited constitutional right" to access the State's forensic DNA evidence for new testing. The district court based its decision on three factors: (1) the unavailability of the more precise technique of shorttandem- repeat ("STR") DNA analysis at the time of Osborne's criminal trial; (2) the low cost to the State of permitting such testing; and (3) the likelihood that the results from such an analysis would be material to Osborne's conviction.
"Post-Conviction Access to a State's Forensic DNA Evidence for Probative Testing: Not a Freestanding Constitutional Right,"
Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy: Vol. 6
, Article 8.
Available at: http://trace.tennessee.edu/tjlp/vol6/iss2/8