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District Attorney's Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne

Docket No.: 08-6
Certiorari Granted: Nov 3 2008
Argued: March 2, 2009
Decided: June 18, 2009

PartyNames: District Attorney's Office for the Third Judicial District, et al. v. William G. Osborne
Petitioner: District Attorney's Office for the Third Judicial District, et al.
Respondent: William G. Osborne

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

District Attorney's Office for the Third Judicial District, et al.
v.
William G. Osborne
Background:

William Osborne was charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, and physical assault. He had the assistance of a competent lawyer who made a reasonable strategic decision to forgo independent DNA testing of the state's biological evidence. He was convicted after an error-free trial. Now, years later, Osborne has filed an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking access to the biological evidence for purposes of new DNA testing.

Question Presented:

1. May Osborne use § 1983 as a discovery device for obtaining postconviction access to the state's biological evidence when he has no pending substantive claim for which that evidence would be material? 2. Does Osborne have a right under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause to obtain postconviction access to the state's biological evidence when the claim he intends to assert - a freestanding claim of innocence - is not legally cognizable?

Question:

1) May 42 U.S.C. § 1983 be used to obtain post-conviction access to evidence when there is no pending claim for which that evidence could be utilized? 2) Does the 14th Amendment's due process clause afford the plaintiff the right to obtain post-conviction access to evidence when plaintiff's intended claim is foreclosed by evidence obtained through confession?

Holding: judgment reversed and remanded
Vote: 5-4
Read DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE FOR THE THIRD JUDICIAL DISTRICT V. OSBORNE opinion (PDF)