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District Attorney’s Office v. Osborne

United States Supreme Court
557 U.S. 52 (2009)


Facts

William Osborne (defendant) was convicted of kidnapping and sexual assault in Alaska in 1993. The parole board released Osborne from prison after 14 years, due in part to his confession to the crime at a parole hearing. Osborne was subsequently arrested for a new crime, and the District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District (plaintiff) petitioned to revoke his parole. Osborne then requested that the Alaska Court of Appeals order deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing on biological evidence found on a condom collected from the 1993 crime scene. Osborne claimed that he had made the same request of his lawyer, Sidney Billingslea, at the 1993 trial, but that she had failed to act on his request. Billingslea testified that she had not requested the testing for various reasons, including her belief that the results would confirm Osborne’s guilt. Osborne alleged that his confession had been a lie made in order to gain a quicker release. The court of appeals denied relief based on Osborne’s failure to make the request at the 1993 trial and his confession to the parole board. Osborne then brought a federal action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that he was entitled to DNA testing under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The federal district court agreed with Osborne and ordered the state to turn over the evidence for testing. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that the duty to disclose exculpatory evidence extends to postconviction proceedings. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the constitutional claim.

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Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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