When is Post-Conviction DNA Testing Proper?
Kelly L. Rooth, Shareholder
DNA testing can play an important evidentiary role in a criminal case. However, the law regulates circumstances where it can be used. On October 15, 2009, in Scott v. State, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision that Paul Scott, who was convicted of first-degree murder of James Alessi, was not entitled to post-conviction DNA testing because he failed to show there was a reasonable probability that test results would exonerate him of the crime or lessen his sentence.
Alessi died from a compressed skull fracture after receiving six blows to his head with a blunt object. Evidence showed that Scott and his co-defendant, Richard Kondian, told a third party their plans to rob and kill Alessi. The next morning, Alessi’s body was found in his home, with his hands and feet tied together, nude, and covered with blood. There were blood stains throughout the house, as well as broken objects, indicating a violent struggle had taken place. Scott’s fingerprints were located throughout the home, including on a bloodstained knife.
After conviction, Scott requested DNA testing of blood stains from areas of the crime scene. The court reasoned that whether or not Scott’s blood was present has no relevance on whether he committed the crime because his presence at Alessi’s home was undisputed. The court also deemed Scott’s claim that he was constitutionally entitled to a right of access to DNA evidence procedurally barred because he did not present this argument to the trial court.