Thursday, June 22, 2006

House Opens Door to DNA Claims

The Supreme Court in House v. Bell, No. 04-8990 (June 12) held that a man who had been sentenced to death in 1986 had met the requirements of the actual-innocence exception to the rule that habeas isn't available to prisoners who have forfeited claims under state law. At the time of his trial, evidence indicated that semen on the clothing of the rape-murder victim matched his. That was based only on blood type and the characteristic of being a "secreter." Later DNA testing showed that the semen was her husband's. Because of the Supreme Court's ruling, House will get a new hearing.

An article in the ABA Journal eReport explores the significance of the case. Mark Hansen, DNA Evidence Cited in High Court Ruling: Expect More Innocence Claims to Come, Experts Say, June 16, 2006.

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