From NBC's Pete Williams
The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to find a constitutional right of access to DNA evidence for convicted prisoners. And the court refused to make it easier for older Americans to sue for job discrimination.
DNA testing has freed 232 wrongly convicted prisoners nationwide -- 17 of them sentenced to death. Though most states allow prisoners to get some DNA testing, defense lawyers say those laws don't go far enough.
In the case ruled on today, an Alaska man, William Osborne, sued to get access to crime scene DNA so he could get a more accurate test performed than was available 15 years ago, when he was convicted of rape. But by a 5-4 vote, the court said Alaska gives inmates a reasonable shot at DNA. What's more, the decision said, there's no need for the federal courts to jump in and make a sweeping declaration of a constitutional right of access to DNA, given that 46 states and the federal government already allow some kind of access to DNA evidence.
In the age discrimination case, the court -- again by a 5-4 vote -- said that lawsuits claiming that an employee was fired because of age must show that age was the reason for the firing, not simply that it was one of several other factors. The court has allowed the "several factor" analysis in claims for race discrimination. But the court said today that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is worded differently and does not allow lawsuits for such "mixed motive" cases.
Ten cases now remain to be decided. We'll next get decisions on Monday, June 22.