Understanding the U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision on Post-Trial DNA Testing in Osborne

On June 19, 2009, In District Attorney v. Osborne, the U.S. Supreme Court held that criminal defendants do not have a federal due process right to post–trial DNA testing. This article gives an overview of the facts and impacts of the case. Osborne’s supporters argued that if evidence existed that could conclusively show whether or not a defendant committed the crime then it should be tested. But these arguments ignore the fact that Osborne’s trial counsel’s decision to not request more specific pre-trial DNA testing was to avoid further incrimination of Osborne. This case is a reminder that prosecutors should strive to have policies that are fair and open-minded and place the interests of justice ahead of a desire to simply fight to preserve all convictions.


Supreme Court Clarifies Miranda

On February 24, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Maryland v. Shatzer, in which it reinstated a defendant’s child abuse conviction and announced a new rule that permits the police to resume questioning of suspects (who had previously invoked their right to remain silent) 14 days after they’re released from police custody. This ruling expands the ability of law enforcement officers to conduct suspect interviews in ongoing investigations where the body of evidence continues to build over time. The facts of Shatzer exemplify that a victim’s disclosure of sexual abuse is often a process that takes time, and the facts of this case presented the Court with an opportunity to create a common sense rule that appropriately balances the constitutional rights of the accused with the need to hold offenders accountable and seek justice for victims of crime.


Miranda Under the Microscope Again

This article provides an overview of Berghuis, Warden v. Thompkins, a case involving an individual’s waiver of his right to remain silent pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona. The Court held that after properly administering the Miranda warning, the police did not need an express or implied waiver of rights before they interrogated the subject and that the suspect in this case failed to clearly invoke his right to remain silent by simply remaining mostly silent during the interrogation. The case doesn’t appear to drastically impact Miranda, but it does offer law enforcement additional guidance on when and how they can proceed with questioning suspects.


Understanding Anogenital Injury in Adult Sexual Assault Cases

Anogenital injury is often seen as the ultimate evidence in sexual assault cases. However, the reality is that anogenital injury evidence has significant limitations. Specifically, in the vast majority of cases we are limited in our ability to distinguish between injuries resulting from a sexual assault and those sustained during consensual sexual activity. This article discusses how these points may not be well understood by legal practitioners and clinicians alike, resulting in a portrayal of anogenital injury as having clear and unambiguous significance. Understanding the emerging research on consensual sexual activity injury can therefore help us provide more accurate information to attorneys, judges, and juries in adult sexual assault cases.


Supreme Court Continues to Expand the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause: Bullcoming v. New Mexico

This article provides an overview of Bullcoming v. New Mexico, a case holding that the Confrontation Clause prohibits the prosecution from introducing a forensic laboratory report through the testimony of an analyst who did not personally perform or observe the testing. The authors discuss the impact of the case on domestic violence prosecutions to the extent that it expands defendants’ rights under the Confrontation Clause in the area of required live testimony and appears to limit the prosecution’s ability to present physical evidence when laboratory analysis is involved.


Benefits of a Coordinated Community Response to Sexual Violence

When medical, legal, and victim advocacy systems work together, they provide better, more effective services to victims. This article outlines the importance of multidisciplinary responses as a way to help survivors understand the breadth of available community resources and services. The authors also demonstrate how coordinated responses to sexual violence result in holding offenders accountable while protecting victims and communities.


The Benefits of Specialized Prosecution Units in Domestic and Sexual Violence Cases

Domestic violence victims not participating in the prosecution of their abusers can be misunderstood as a lack of interest or a of credibility. In adult sexual assault cases, offenders often attempt to manipulate the system into sympathizing with them and blaming the victim. In the light of these challenges and In an effort to improve the response to domestic and sexual violence, many prosecutors’ offices around the country have created specialized units dedicated to prosecuting these crimes. These units provide prosecutors with concentrated trial experience, focused training, and the opportunity to work closely with law enforcement and community partners. This approach can lead to an improved experience for the victim as well as for police, prosecutors, and community partners. This article explains how prosecutors with strong experience working on sexual and domestic violence cases are skilled at focusing on the offender and exposing his attempts to manipulate the system.


Supreme Court Clarifies the “Ongoing Emergency” in Michigan v. Bryant

This article provides an overview of Michigan v. Bryant, a case involving the admissibility of a dying victim’s statements to responding police in view of the Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. The Court held that the statements were made to meet an ongoing emergency and were therefore nontestimonial, making them admissible under the principles of Crawford v. Washington. The authors conclude that Bryant gives criminal justice practitioners expanded guidance on what constitutes an ongoing emergency, which enhances the prosecution’s ability to prove a case when the victim is not available to testify.


Stalking: Effective Strategies for Prosecutors

Stalking affects 6.6 million people in the United States each year and every day, in courtrooms throughout the country, stalking victims recount the fear and distress they have experienced as a result of this crime. Stalkers create and exploit vulnerabilities in their victims, relying on technology and manipulation of the justice system to conceal their crimes and cast doubt on their victim’s credibility. This article provides an overview of stalking and the modern technology stalkers use. The article emphasizes the importance of using a collaborative approach between law enforcement, victim advocates and prosecutors to assist victims and hold offenders accountable.


Making It Stick: Protecting the Record for Appeal

Having a sexual assault, domestic violence, or human trafficking case reversed on appeal can result in a re-trial with stale evidence, reluctant witnesses, and a victim who is forced to relive the case when she is finally beginning to heal. Though the appellate process is unavoidable, a prosecutor can bring a measure of finality to the criminal justice process by carefully building a strong trial court record that supports the conviction and the sentence imposed and withstands appellate challenges. This article discusses the proper creation and protection of the record during all phases of a criminal case, focusing on investigation, charging, plea agreements, trial preparation and strategy, summation, and sentencing. It addresses pretrial motions, recommends the use of trial briefs on anticipated trial problems, and explains how strategic charging decisions can result in admission of evidence that might otherwise be excluded.