I haven't blogged recently because I've been absolutely swamped, but I wanted to take a brief moment to talk about a case coming up before the US Supreme Court on Monday. The case is District Attorney's Office for the Third Judicial District, et al. v. Osborne.
William Osborne was convicted of a sex assault in 1997. The best DNA tests available at the time showed he was among the 16% of the African-American population who could have left the semen. He has proclaimed his innocence. The case was proceeding in a state post-conviction petition when Osborne filed a §1983 action seeking further testing of the DNA. The State objected. The Innocence Project has been representing Osborne in federal court (more about that in a minute). They have offered to pay for the testing. Let me repeat that: the Innocence Project has offered to pay any costs to re-test the DNA with subsequent procedures to see if the DNA excludes Mr. Osborne. The State freely acknowledges that the testing would conclusively demonstrate whether he is guilty or innocent, but they will not release the evidence for subsequent testing. Robert Morgenthau, District Attorney for Manhattan since 1975, has an interesting take on the case. Essentially, while thinking that Mr. Osborne looks guilty, he does not think much of Alaska's District Attorney's Office.
There is certainly no reason for the State's refusal to provide the sample. A relatively quick test that would be paid for by another party means that the State is not inconvenienced and we can settle clearly Osborne's guilt or innocence. Yet Alaska obstinately refuses to turn it over.
Part of the reason that I post this is that this issue was raised by a good friend of mine, Randall Cavanaugh. He has been handling Mr. Osborne's state post-conviction relief petition since its inception. He brought in the Innocence Project for help with the §1983 action. While he's not arguing the case before the US Supreme Court, and while Peter Neufeld and the Innocence Project will get the lion's share of the press, it was Randall's diligence from the start that put this case in its current position. Randall is headed to DC to watch the oral argument. As an Alaskan, as a defense attorney, and most importantly as Randall's friend, I wish him well on Monday.