The most conservative appeals court in
the country held true to form this week when it ruled that
a defendant, James Harvey, has no right to have post-conviction DNA tests of
evidence, even if he contends that such testing would exonerate him of the
The Virginia appeals court decision
overturned a landmark lower court ruling which had held that such a right
was guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
The appeals court claimed that if a
defendant had a right to retest evidence every time there was an advance in
forensic science, that "would leave perfectly valid judgments in a
perpetually unsettled state."
Well, pardon me, but shouldn't we be
far more concerned that the innocent don't languish in jail or suffer
execution, than that the criminal justice system might have to suffer the
burden of revisiting certain cases? The court's overblown phrase
"perpetually unsettled state" is almost anthropomorphic in its
concerned tone, which is appropriate: conservatives usually do put process
and administrative convenience over justice.
The court also hid behind the usual
conservative judicial excuse that the legislature or higher courts were more
proper venues for establishing a right such as DNA testing. This way
the right-wing appeals court tries to have it both ways: it implies maybe
there should be such a right, but suggests others establish it. This
faux sympathy for the wrongly convicted is also a typical conservative
tactic: express sympathy for the victim but find some excuse not to help
The defendant in this appeals court
case was convicted of rape. Scores of innocent people, including those
convicted of rape and murder, have been freed from prison and Death Row over
the past years as the result of DNA testing.
Vanessa Potkin of the Innocence
Project, which has played an instrumental role in freeing wrongly convicted
defendants all over the country, the clear bottom
[I]t's a pretty commonsensical issue at the end of the day.
If this were a pre-conviction trial, it would be obvious to everyone that
the defendant has right to his own DNA testing...
So shouldn't it be common sense that
we should extend that right to a post-conviction scenario? How can it not
be helpful to correct the mistake of imprisoning an innocent person?
You know what karma is? What
goes around comes around. If there were any poetic justice in the
universe, and such a thing as reincarnation, wouldn't it be a delight if
these Virginia appeals court judges came back as wrongly convicted
defendants whose freedom could only be achieved by additional DNA testing of