Those of us who argue strongly and often that the Constitution is about immutable principles rather than evolving standards are obligated to wince (metaphorically) in public when a case comes along that gives the other side (Supreme Court justices should care about people, not just the law!) some ammunition. This is me wincing:
In the court's first examination of how to treat the rapidly evolving field of biological testing, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a majority that said it is up to the states and Congress to decide who has a right to testing that might prove innocence long after conviction.
The “challenges DNA technology poses to our criminal justice systems and our traditional notions of finality'' are better left to elected officials than federal judges, Roberts wrote in the 5-to-4 decision.
I understand and appreciate the federalist principles Roberts is talking about, but, seriously, shouldn't the Bill of Rights be in play here? Unfortunately, previous rulings have downplayed what should be the top priority in any appeals process in any case: whether someone is actually guilty or not. "A criminal defendant proved guilty after a fair trial does not have the same liberty interests as a free man," as Roberts dryly notes, sounds like crap to me. Someone convicted of a crime can't call on the best evidence available, evidence that wasn't available at the time of trial, in an effort to prove his innocence? Only three states -- Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Alaska, where this case originated -- lack laws providing postconviction access to biological evidence. Indiana isn't lagging behind for a change, thank goodness.