Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Supreme Court’s Decision In Skinner v. Switzer

The Supreme Court today issued a ruling in Skinner v. Switzer holding that an individual seeking testing of DNA gathered at a crime scene may pursue that claim in a Federal civil rights lawsuit.


“I am pleased that the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia, chose to expand, rather than limit, the opportunity to access testing of DNA evidence.  Today’s ruling that the federal courts may hear, under civil rights law, a claim by a state prison inmate that the state did not follow proper procedures for the testing of biological evidence will help to ensure that DNA evidence is properly used to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent. We should make every effort to promote DNA testing in our criminal justice system. It has proven time and again to be a powerful tool that promotes justice and certainty.

“I was proud to have worked on the Justice for All Act of 2004, which included important tools and assistance to help state and local governments utilize DNA evidence and make it easier for defendants to access post-conviction DNA testing.  Last month, I introduced the Justice for All Reauthorization Act to build on the success of the 2004 legislation and strengthen the ability of state and local governments to collect and process DNA evidence.  This bill should receive bipartisan support, just as the original Justice for All Act did.  I look forward to working with Senators from both parties to ensure that DNA evidence is harnessed to make the criminal justice system work as effectively and as fairly as possible.”

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