With a new term of Court about to begin, it is worth spending a moment on one of the cases it decided late last term but that was pushed out of the way by other major news events. The Roberts Court still could not get it through its head that innocence matters. Osborne, an inmate who sought access to DNA evidence, may have been guilty. But the Roberts Court simply decided that once convicted there is no right to get DNA to prove one’s innocence.
The Innocence Project, operating out of Cardozo Law School along with several satellites around the country has secured the release of a substantial number of people who had been convicted, many on death row, through the use of DNA testing with new and improved testing techniques.
Now the five self-styled conservative “justices” have decided once again that there is no need to conserve the life or the freedom of people who have been falsely put away. I see nothing in that decision that is either conservative or just. All they can say is that they and the society they sit on top of are and should be too busy to notice if a miscarriage of justice has taken place.
This is a continuation of the sins of the Bush White House. We lose the moral war because they deny the relevance of morality. So-called conservatives claim that it is activist and illegitimate to notice the immorality of confining or executing people who are innocent. Well then, give me activist judges who care about decency and justice.
“Justice, justice shalt thou pursue” the Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 16:20. These are the conservatives who have been telling us for years that religion belongs on the public square, supported by the state. But religion for what? Certainly it is not attached to any sort of moral claim when people in black. robes sitting on benches in courthouses show us all the sophisticated morality of people in white hoods and robes burning crosses.
Four justices dissented. It’s always the same four on cases that address innocence – Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. They apparently frighten some self-styled “conservatives” because this quartet of justices actually notice and care about justice. What a shame that justices should care about justice.
Oh, but you say the Constitution doesn’t say anything about DNA. Indeed. And if you want the Constitution to spell out with precision every term invented after the death of the founders you will reduce the Constitution to ashes, no longer good for anything. Of course that is pure hypocrisy since the self-styled judicial conservatives actually manage to find lots of things unconstitutional despite the absence of specific eighteenth or nineteenth century language. It’s just that they pay no attention to morality or justice and focus only on the effect on their friends and allies, on putting Bush in the White House, supporting his and Cheney’s policies, and anything that will cow the people by giving the police unaccountable discretion, even if that means throwing a young mother in jail for not wearing a seat belt, or protecting a corporation from damage awards, or from regulation against the kinds of misdeeds that ended up derailing the economy. This isn’t about law. It’s about whose ox is gored. The self-styled conservatives are not above throwing the law to the big fish though that has nothing to do with law, justice or morality.
For these justices, the abortion controversy has been a front behind which to hide the unfairness of everything else they have been doing. Fundamentalists, as much as any of the rest of us, should be ashamed of these people.
This Court is an abomination and should be replaced.