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DNA Sampling No Different Than Fingerprinting

SCOTUS opinion: Maryland v. King

In an opinion delivered by Justice Kennedy today the Supreme Court said that taking a DNA sample from a suspect is the same as fingerprinting someone upon arrest, and that the purpose is indentification of the suspectJustice Kennedy Maryland v. King  “When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” said Justice Kennedy.Justice Scalia: Maryland v. King

“That assertion taxes the credulity of the credulous,” said Justice Scalia in a dissent delivered from the bench. “In approving that suspicionless search, the Court has cast aside a bedrock rule of our Fourth Amendment …”

The case is Maryland v. King

Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with: , ,

DNA “Fingerprinting”?

Maryland and 27 other states have laws that permit the taking of a DNA sample, usually by cheek swab, at the time of arrest, much like fingerprinting a suspect. Maryland’s high court vacated the conviction of Alonzo King whose DNA, taken during an unrelated arrest in 2009, linked him to a 2003 rape. On Tuesday the Supreme Court heard arguments in Maryland v. King.


NYT’s Adam Liptak writes about it here.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

Court Opens the Door a Crack on DNA Testing for Prisoners

A sketch of Justice Ginsburg reading her opinion in Skinner v. Switzer :

WaPo story here.

Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , ,

DNA Clears Prisoner After 27 Years


While Donald Gates, convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of a university student, waited in an Arizona prison lawyers in a DC courtroom were asking a judge to release him.

Gates’ conviction was based largely on the testimony of an FBI forensic analyst whose work has been discredited.

Pictured are Judge Fred Ugast, the original trial judge, at the lectern is Sandra Levick from the Public Defender Service, and Assistant U.S.Attorney Joan Draper.

WaPo story here.

Posted in Courtroom Tagged with:

Lively Argument Over DNA Testing

Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case from Alaska that asks whether a convicted felon has a constitutional right to access state evidence for testing. Because the subject of this case, William Osborne, who was convicted of rape in 1993, did not avail himself of the more accurate DNA test prior to trial, and admitted his guilt at a parole hearing some of the Justices seemed to think he might be “gaming the system” by seeking DNA evidence now that he has nothing to lose.

According to The Innocence Project, whose co-founder Peter Neufeld argued on Osborne’s behalf, 232 wrongly convicted persons have been exonerated over the past two decades.

NYT story here.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,
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