Seldom do I disagree with those espousing a liberal interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. This is because I believe there is a fundamental right to privacy and that the underprivileged face a stacked deck when subject to criminal prosecution. One need only see the documentaries "Thin Blue Line" or "The Central Park Five" to learn just how obvious this is.
A recent Supreme Court decision ("Top Court OKs Police Collection of DNA," June 4) sided with the state of Maryland, which, as a matter of routine, obtains DNA samples from individuals taken into police custody. This led to a rape conviction for one man who was swabbed during an unrelated arrest 10 years after the fact. He tried to get this conviction overturned by saying his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. But this begs the question: What if someone else had been wrongly convicted of the crime and, therefore, exonerated? Interestingly, the laws around access to DNA testing for inmates claiming innocence tend to be very soft, allowing for such requests to be easily denied by courts even when inmates can pay for it themselves.
By ruling against the state of Maryland, the court would've granted states another means whereby politicians could save face under the guise of protecting privacy and being "tough on crime." One can only hope legislatures that have mandated such practices will mandate equal scrutiny to overturning wrongful convictions as they do to closing cold cases. We should be just as diligent in assuring the freedom of the innocent as we are in assuring the punishment of the guilty. This decision gently nudges us in that direction.