Thursday, 5 April 2007

Ohio Supreme Court ruling grants discretion

Ohio Supreme Court ruling grants discretion to trial court judges in applying post-conviction DNA testing law: Ohio Supreme Court's 6-1 ruling yesterday in the non-capital case of Ohio v. Bueler is here (14-page pdf). Summary prepared by the OSC Public Info Office is here (1-page text). AP has this report.
AP excerpts:
A trial court can decide when a prison inmate applies for DNA testing whether prosecutors must determine if DNA evidence is available or whether the inmate must first show that negative results would likely overturn a conviction, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The 6-1 decision means trial courts can apply parts of a state law allowing post-conviction DNA testing for certain inmates differently depending on the facts of each case.
The ruling was made in the case of inmate Paul Buehler, whose application for DNA testing was denied in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court without prosecutors determining whether genetic material from the crime scene was still available for testing. The judge ruled that Buehler first had to show a negative test result would have led to his acquittal, and the court decided DNA testing could not disprove prosecutors' arguments at trial about his involvement in the 1985 bludgeoning death of Joan O'Brien.

...Trial courts can ultimately grant inmates' applications for DNA testing only if they show a strong probability they would have been acquitted with a negative result.

In some cases, inmates would have difficulty showing whether the DNA testing would make a difference without knowing what evidence the state has, said Katherine Szudy, assistant state public defender.

"The major repercussions will be that the trial court has a lot more discretion to decide what cases will be allowed to continue in terms of DNA testing," she said.

Mark Godsey, director of the University of Cincinnati-based Ohio Innocence Project, said the law school group has handled cases where searches by prosecutors have turned up more DNA evidence than they believed they had.

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