The Osborne Decision: You Don't Want to Inconvenience Alaska, Do You?:
To be sure, William Osborne is something of a motherfucker. Six months after he was paroled from prison for the 1993 rape, kidnapping, and assault of a woman in Alaska that was the focus of his case before the Supreme Court, he was arrested for a vicious home invasion. So if you're arguing, as Osborne was, that you're entitled to prove your innocence with a post-conviction DNA test on the semen found in the condom used at the rape despite the fact that you live in Alaska (state motto: "Suck our pipeline, you sub-Canadian bastards"), one of the only states that doesn't allow for such tests, it'd be way better for everyone involved if you weren't a mega-asshole. But, alas, this ain't a movie and rights are complicated shit, as we are forced to learn again and again.
So when the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision (known in legal circles as the "Yeah, that was totally unexpected" count, with a big eye roll on "totally"), said, more or less, "Proving this cocksucker innocent or guilty would just be a big ass inconvenience," it ain't as if anyone's gonna weep a tear or two for Osborne. And, hey, Osborne's first DNA test confirmed that because he's black, there was a one in seven chance it'd match him, such was the sophistication of the test used.
Ultimately, though, this ain't about Osborne. Really, fuck him. He was a craven opportunist looking for the easiest way out. When he applied for parole, he was told he'd have to confess to the crime in order to get it. So, being the man of principle that he is, he confessed. We can argue all kinds of shit about Osborne, about what one's state of mind might be if one was innocent and offered a chance to get out, about whether he was innocent. Or if he was a guilty man who finally found a way to game the system to get out. But it doesn't matter.
Because, see, what the Supreme Court did yesterday was to say, one more time, that we can't burden the poor states with rights they're not ready to give. In an appropriately pussy statement, Chief Justice John Roberts writes, "DNA evidence will undoubtedly lead to changes in the criminal justice system. It has done so already. The question is whether further change will primarily be made by legislative revision and judicial interpretation of the existing system, or whether the Federal Judiciary must leap ahead--revising (or even discarding) the system by creating a new constitutional right and taking over responsibility for refining it." In other words, DNA is so very awesome, so awesome that 47 states and the federal government already allow its use post-conviction on previously collected evidence, but we wouldn't want to make Alaska, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts stop being such dicks about it.
By the way, fun fact: the District Attorney's office opposing Osborne said that a new DNA test would conclusively prove his innocence or guilt. So even for the DA, Osborne was beside the point. Another fun fact: Osborne, with help from the Innocence Project, was going to pay for the test, but Alaska would not give him access to the evidence.
Rights are abstract things and messy when they're implemented. That's the way it goes. You want freedom of speech? You're gonna get pornography and some fucking blogger making jokes about Clarence Thomas hungrily gobbling Antonin Scalia's cock while Samuel Alito fucks him in the ass because Thomas loves to be the meat in an Italian bread sandwich. You want a justice system that tries its best to make sure that innocent people aren't imprisoned? Then you don't fucking lock them up without charge and you don't deny them the chance to prove innocence.
Almost every state grants the request that Osborne made. They all seem to be able to handle it without the foundations of justice tumbling. As Justice Stevens writes in dissent, "The arbitrariness of the State's conduct is highlighted by comparison to the private interests it denies. It seems to me obvious that if a wrongly convicted person were to produce proof of his actual innocence, no state interest would be sufficient to justify his continued punitive detention. If such proof can be readily obtained without imposing a significant burden on the State, a refusal to provide access to such evidence is wholly unjustified."
But, no, Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and sometimes Kennedy pull out the states' and legislative rights card when it's convenient, when a case makes them feel ooky (check out Alito's concurring opinion for a creepy dwelling on the facts of the crime). Because we certainly wouldn't want the United States to act like we're states that are united.