Last week was a dark one for sensible, fair American justice:
Prisoners have no constitutional right to DNA testing that might prove their innocence, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a 5-to-4 decision.
The court divided along familiar ideological lines, with the majority emphasizing that 46 states already have laws that allow at least some prisoners to gain access to DNA evidence.
The problems with this are clear:
- The constitutional argument goes to due process, and it seems obvious to me. I can’t understand how five Supreme Court Justices don’t see it that way. It just makes sense to examine evidence that we weren’t able to examine — technologically — at the time of the trial.
- Many of the state laws are inadequate. For example, some only allow it for death-penalty cases, but will allow someone to die in prison rather than review the DNA. And in any case, prosecutors oppose the petitions, not wanting to risk having their convictions overturned.
- No argument about how much trouble it might be will win me over, when we’re talking about years of someone’s life spent in prison for not knowing. No argument of “convicted in a fair trial” can counter the unfairness of a false conviction. If we don’t put the priority on a person’s life, what are we?
Such is the legacy of the Bushes, père et fils, and Ronald Reagan; this is where they’ve left us.
 Actually, I can, when I consider who four of those five are. I’m disappointed that Justice Kennedy joined them.