The University of New Hampshire Law Review


[Excerpt] “Undoubtedly, there are innocent people in prison. Moreover, it is probable that the wrongly convicted, if given a chance to conduct DNA testing on evidence used against them at trial, could establish their innocence. […]

Part II of this Comment will examine the reasoning behind recent circuit court decisions concerning prisoners’ rights to post-conviction genetic testing. I will explain that a bifurcated approach is the appropriate paradigm for reviewing these claims and demonstrate why three of the four circuit courts erred in their analyses. This part also will review the Supreme Court decisions cited by the circuit courts and explain why the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Circuits’ reliance on those decisions was misplaced.

Part III will address how the Supreme Court should reconcile the current circuit split concerning the rights of prisoners to post-conviction DNA testing. This part confronts skeptics’ concerns of protecting finality, respecting federalism, and flooding the courts with prisoner suits. It concludes that neither the abstention doctrines nor the Prison Litigation Reform Act preclude federal court review of these claims and that a due process right to genetic testing should be recognized. Lastly, I will explain that the sole remedy currently available for prisoners with favorable DNA test results is executive clemency and I will argue why clemency is an insufficient solution.

Finally, Part IV will analyze briefly the pending congressional legislation and explain that its language, as written, leaves doubt as to whether Congress intends to preclude § 1983 actions to prisoners seeking DNA testing. This ambiguity, unless corrected, will further exacerbate federal courts’ confusion regarding the proper analysis of such claims.”

Repository Citation

Dylan Ruga, Federal Court Adjudication of State Prisoner Claims for Post-Conviction DNA Testing: A Bifurcated Approach, 2 Pierce L. Rev. 35 (2004), available at http://scholars.unh.edu/unh_lr/vol2/iss1/5