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DNA Testing: So What If He Could Be Innocent, Appeals Court Says, We Can't Be Bothered By These Pesky Defendants

January 27, 2002

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 crime.

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 him.

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, gives us the clear bottom line:

[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 evidence?

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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