I wanted to say a little something about Skinner, the DNA case, from the other day. Right off the bat, I'll say that I am happy with the result for the sake of the criminal defendant. From a practical point of view, he seemed to put forth compelling reasons for getting the evidence in his case tested.
Unfortunately, as other people have pointed out in many other places, Skinner really is a limited decision. The decision does not find that Skinner can get the DNA testing. It only says that he can argue in a 1983 case that he should get it.
In fact, the decision really focuses on a pretty technical subject matter jurisdication question. And, as I kind of said in my prior post* about the case, that question seemed to be dictated by the Court's decision in Wilkinson v. Dotson.
*Okay, it's more like I kind of kind of phrased it that way. I wrote in the prior post that Skinner had the better argument and I noted that Wilkinson was a favorable case. I know that you need to take my word for this, but I believe that I was actually thinking at the time that Skinner really should win if the Court honestly followed Wilkinson. But I got all timid and whatnot and tempered the language of the post. I forgot one of the cardinal rules of blogging: be bold.
And since Osbourne foreclosed a substantive due process claim to DNA testing, Skinner can only claim a procedural due process error. I don't know the likelihood of success on that. Actually, I am not sure what that type of claim looks like here. Is it that the procedures were inadequate? (Is that more of a substantive due process claim?) Or is it that they were not properly followed? As both the majority and the dissent points out, the complaint was not artfully drafted, so that document does not provide much guidance as to the contours of the claim. Either way, Skinner now has the liberty to litigate in a 1983 case in federal court that his procedural due process rights were violated.