This story seems to me to capture one of the central problems that defense lawyers have with prosecutors. Though it seems that every prosecutor has learned to talk about how they never want an innocent person in prison, they're only out for justice etc, their actions, rather than their self righteous and self important public statements, regularly belie this claim. The problem is that the public only hears what prosecutors say, and rarely look at what they do. This is a case in point.
Alaska State Prison
William Osborne, a man locked up for more than a decade for a crime he says he didn't commit has been trying for years to get a DNA test to prove his innocence. Conclusive evidence exists, he's able to pay for the test himself but the prosecution has been stonewalling, seeking to prevent him even getting the test.
Their most recent salvo: An attempt to bias the judge hearing the motion to have the DNA tested by introducing a supposed "Confession" made to the parole board who had made it clear to poor Mr. Osborne that if he ever wanted to get out of prison he needed to confess.
Then they denied him parole.
Tests done in 1993 showed that the critical evidence in the case: semen recovered at the scene matched about 16 percent of the black population, a group that included Osborne. He asked for more advanced testing, but his attorney at the time refused, strategizing that the inconclusive results were in his favor because they showed the semen could have come from any number of people.
Far more advanced DNA tests are available now.
"Let's just get the condom and hair tested," his attorney has said. "That's what needs to be done. If they are so sure they have the right guy, just let us spend our money to get it tested."
Of course, while prosecutors insist that they'd never want to see an innocent man in prison, in countless cases like that of Mr. Osborne--who has already spent over a decade incarcerated for a crime he may not have committed, their actions speak far louder than their words.
They want convictions. They want finality. And if that means that men like Osborne rot, it seems that that is a price that prosecutors, at least, are willing to pay.