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March 2nd, 2009
04:36 PM ET

Criminal Justice

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”

Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

Let’s talk DNA. Believe it or not, if you are convicted of a crime, you have no right to the DNA evidence. No constitutional right, that is. That’s why Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck and the other folks at the Innocence Project are in Washington, D.C. today to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to find that such a right exists in our Constitution.

To be clear, most states do provide for access to DNA material; But in many states, the fight for the DNA material from a crime scene can go on for years, even decades. In Alaska, where today’s case originates, there is no right at all to test DNA on appeal from a conviction — none. That means that an innocent person, who might be able to prove his wrongful conviction, simply cannot.

It also means that victims and their families, who seek justice, may not get it because if the wrong man is in prison, of course, the real perpetrator is still out there – a result not even the most law-and-order prosecutor would want. Prosecutors, after all, are in pursuit of justice.

That is why a consortium of prosecutors have joined with the Innocence Project to file an amicus brief in the case supporting a Constitutional right to DNA. Those who oppose it cite the costs of collection, preservation and the testing of DNA. These are valid concerns but do not trump the Constitution, lest we lose the true meaning of criminal justice.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • In Session • Jami Floyd
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    The constitution doesn't mention any evidence specifically so I fail to see how one can say no one has the right to DNA evidence – that would be like saying you can't have access to fingerprint evidence. The Constitution is suppose to be flexible enough to grow with the times and with the progress man makes in many areas – including the justice department. Any evidence at all that would shed light on the truth of a crime should be available for all no matter what state they reside or are charged in. I hope the Court will concur with that.

    March 2, 2009 at 7:11 pm |
  2. Christina Los Angeles, California

    Janet, I 2nd your comment!!

    March 2, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  3. Isabel, Brazil

    Who has never felt yourself to be so wronged? Or paid for something you did not?
    Imagine if the situation is extreme and the payment is freedom or life itself.

    The Innocence Project is a success story!

    After all, we all want are justice and not an innocent paying for who did not. If the DNA helps to prove the innocence or guilt, should be used!

    March 2, 2009 at 5:09 pm |
  4. janet

    I would think that the cost should be irrelevant...hard to imagine anyone opposing this, but I guess there are naysayers to every intelligent piece of legislation that's ever been put forward.

    March 2, 2009 at 4:59 pm |