Civil Liberties Courts Obama Supreme Court

Forgive Them, William Osborne


    No saint, but where’s the harm in a DNA test?

Anyone with a trace of commonsense and compassion would have supported William G. Osborne’s request for a post-conviction DNA test.
That would leave out five empathy-void robes on the U.S. Supreme Court denied him. Ironically, so too the Obama administration, which filed papers opposing Osborne’s request.
Osborne wanted the chance to conduct a more sophisticated DNA test on evidence than was available when he was convicted in a 1994 kidnap, rape and assault of a prostitute in Anchorage, Alaska. A three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in April 2008 that he should be able to test semen found in a condom and two hairs.
Heck, Osborne even offered to pay the $1,000 tab himself. But before you get all weepy about Osborne or jump down my throat for coming to the aid of a possibly guilty rapist, consider a few facts about the case and Osborne’s troubled background. It’s a tough case. If you were either Peter J. Neufeld or Colin Starger, his lawyers at the Innocence Project at New York’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, you probably would have preferred a more sympathetic client. But due process and the Bill of Rights don’t discriminate by zip code or storyline.

The assorted and sordid facts

—It’s not like Osborne is languishing in prison because he may have been wrongly convicted. He served 14 years and was paroled in 2007. Six months later, he was back in prison as part of a plea deal in a home invasion case. He and a group of masked men stood accused of raiding a home in search of drugs and money and pistol-whipping residents, bound in duct tape.

Osborne’s own lawyer in the 1994 case sold him out. She told an employee of the Alaska state crime lab that she thought her client was guilty. Here’s the quote as it appears in the writeup by the three-member panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. “Counsel disbelieved Osborne’s statement that he did not commit the crime.”

Osborne gave the parole board a written confession of the kidnap/rape. The Ninth Circuit considered that seeming nail-in-the-coffin when it ruled in his favor. The panel wrote:

“Either the confessions will be proven accurate by test results, proving Osborne was in fact the passenger-rapist and his case will proceed no further, or the test results will exclude him as the source of the biological material, in which case serious questions will be raised about the validity of his confession as and whether, as Osborne now claims, he was motivated to confess falsely as the most expeditious means available to obtain release from prison.

–In a jailhouse interview with Anchorage Daily News reporter Lisa Demer, published in February, Osborne talked about what the case meant to him:

Osborne comes across as calm and articulate. He seems resigned to whatever happens. His head is shaved and he has a graying beard. Last year while in prison, he married a woman he knew from long ago. She has young twins and they all visit him in jail.

Asked why he wants the test, he said: “It’s going to resolve this case for once and for all as to whether or not I’ll be able to prove my innocence or my guilt.”

What would the test show? Osborne leaned back to think about it. “Can’t really answer that question,” he finally said.

Osborne was born and raised in South Carolina, graduated high school there. He said he was accepted into The Citadel but it was too expensive, so he joined the Army.

He was just 20 when he was arrested, had his 21st birthday in jail a few days later.

In the years since he’s been gone, his mother, grandmother, aunt and three first cousins all died. A daughter he fathered as a teenager now is a teen herself.

In June 2007, after serving 14 years of a 21-year sentence for rape, kidnapping and assault, he was paroled. Six months later, he was accused of being part of a group of masked men who stormed a home looking for drugs and money, who duct-taped and pistol-whipped hostages.

On Jan. 30, he agreed to a plea bargain that requires him to serve 10 years for the robbery and another six years still hanging over him on the old case.

“Even if I was to be found innocent, I can’t get back the time I’ve already done. It’s time lost,” he said. “So on a certain level, I don’t even care about the case anymore because it’s just gotten to the point where it’s basically something from my past.”

But he recognizes the issue is bigger than he is. He wants to win, he said, “so that the next person doesn’t have to go through this for the next 12 years.”

Daily Journal ‘s Supreme Court reporter Lawrence Hurley explained in his story why the new president came down on the side of the right-leaning justices:

The Obama administration and a number of states, including California, favored reversal because a decision to affirm the 9th Circuit would likely have required the federal government and states to revisit their procedural rules, even if they already allowed inmates access to the evidence.

California Deputy Attorney General Michael Chamberlain described the high court ruling as a “well-reasoned decision” that recognizes how the states have already been active on the issue.

“In California, we have a very comprehensive and effective mechanism,” he said.

Passed in 2000, California’s law, which applies to anyone convicted of a felony, requires the state to maintain DNA evidence for the duration of an inmate’s sentence and allows for retesting regardless of the plea. Indigent inmates can also get legal assistance to pursue such claims.

Peter Neufeld of the Innocence Project told the Daily Journal the ruling was “deeply flawed and disappointing.” He said he would try to persuade the three states that don’t allow at least some limited post-conviction access – Alaska, Massachusetts and Oklahoma – to pass laws similar to those in other states.


  • The circle of unsatisfactory childhood to a life of crime and punishment jailtime (paid by the society) could justify an elaborate social system to change those in need before they turn to crime.

  • Ageed, that the Bill of Rights and due process are important.

    But I thought the Innocence Project was about more – representing and working to free people who may very well be innocent, not representing people who may very well be guilty.

    His written confession to the parole board is troubling, and his reply to the question “What will the test show?” “I can’t really answer that question.” Doesn’t he think it will prove he didn’t do it?

  • Tax payer groups (conservative, for the most part) have ran a successful campaign over the past few decades to convince voters that programs of any kind that prevent kids from becoming criminals are a waste of money. Their data to support this is sketchy at best. My favorite was Tony Rafael, at his blog “InTheHat.blogspot” (inactive for sometime now…), claiming that social programs have not prevented one kid he knows of from joining a gang. Of course, the million dollar question is, how many kids in gang neighborhoods does he know? Also, how does he know that the kids who participate in the programs wouldn’t have become gang members if not for the program? That’s just one example of the far fetched data these tax payer groups rest on. Also, is it fair to say that law enforcement and prisons have done nothing to stop crime, either? Seems the money we throw toward law enforcement winds up blowing in the wind, too. The end result is that they just wind up needing MORE money. Where’s the results for the money given to them? If police are to credit gangs for the decay of neighborhoods, then by contrast if gang members are taken off the streets, neighborhoods should get better. They don’t. Because the poverty level hasn’t changed. This tells me that either the police are too stupid to understand the correlation between poverty and gang activity, or they’re running a racket to fill their own coffers. I know that’s harsh, but it’s unfortunately one or the other.

  • What a perfect name “Cuca Racha”, has chosen for his last comment. A cockroach is know to sneak out at night in an “AnonyMouse” manner. At least the cockroach’s last comment did not contain the words robber barons.

    A Cuca Racha would also be Tony Rafael’s most loayal reader, know for his Besando Culo comments and now is criticizing his former “friend” el mero mero Tony Rafael.

    What would Don Quixote, Big Betty, Santiago have to say about Cuca Racha betrayal?

  • Witness LA, LA East Side, Street Hassle, Mayor Sam…there isn’t an LA blog that isn’t invaded on a daily basis by the troll machine at Barfinthehat. I wish Homeland Security would list them as a terrorist group and take them away. Who would miss them?

  • Gee, I can’t figure out why this guy can’t get access to the DNA… it would only help him if he truly is innocent. If he is not innocent, why ask for DNA that he knows will convict him again?

    “Anyone with a trace of commonsense and compassion would have supported William G. Osborne’s request for a post-conviction DNA test.” Absolutely.

    “Counsel disbelieved Osborne’s statement that he did not commit the crime.” She needs to have her license to practice law revoked. I maybe wrong, but I don’t think so, if an attorney believes his client is guilty, he doesn’t have to take the case. And if he is guilty, again, why ask for another DNA test. It will not help him one iota if he is guilty

  • What a Coincidence, Witness LA, LA East Side, Street Hassle, Mayor Sam are just a few of the blogs that a multiple personality, besa-culo, whining fool post hundreds of comments under many names. Deny, Deny, Deny I am not the multiple personality menso who tries to become friends with the blog host and often times goes beserk about Walter Mooore, Mary Cummins, and gavachos in East L.A and and endless list of enemies.

    Maybe we will be blessed with another failed attempt at humor. Woody is funny in comparison to out anonymouse rata.

  • As usual, gangsta prison slang from the BITH rodents. (“Rata” These guys need to be watched. Hopefully, they are. They are not stable.

  • The troll machine at Barf In The Hat have IP addresses from Indian Wells, CA; as well as Hays, Kansas. That is all for now.

  • Indian Wells….LOL. Anyhow, be careful, you don’t want to be labeled a “rata” and be put in the hat by these cyber wannabe gangster weirdos.

  • I had cause to wonder at the “rata” inference, did some brilliant investigating and discovered the source of the accusation at:

    Apparently this is a caricaturistic blog built to illuminate the blogosphere to the original troll of trolls one stillnoscript alias rob thomas alias cuca racha.
    Check it out. There’s a world of ridiculous frivolity, and dedicated one upmanship.

  • Deb, who doesn’t know what she is talking about ,stated
    “His written confession to the parole board is troubling”

    This happens in every state-cops who can’t bother doing work, get another inmate to confess, and get the parole board to release him early as repayment for covering their laziness. That’s why Federal courts have consistently ruled “confessions”, signed or not, don’t count for anything in court. People get threatened all the time with confessing or having meds, visitation, or anything else removed. Stating there’s money for indigent inmates is a laugh, too-possibly 50 bucks, but not enough to cover the people asking. Almost every case that has gotten enough money to defend, comes out exonerating the inmate too. But lookit the lies-the gov’t and prosecutors everywhere keep saying DNA has never exonerated anyone, and that’s a blatant lie, too. The fact the justices want this judicial laziness to continue shows how out of touch CONservatives are, they can’t be bothered, so the rest of us have to suffer since they are lazy.
    DNA keeps kicking people out of prison. One inmate I read of ,the prosecutor kept claiming his DNA, tested only in 14 places, conclusively proved he was guilty-but it a) hadn’t been tested right, and b) wasn’t his. It didn’t prove anything other than underpaid public defenders who are right and telling the truth are no threat to CONservative justices who make innocent people bear the brunt of their judicial maliciousness. Wish the tables were turned, and they were in prison begging for help that never came.

  • “It will not help him one iota if he is guilty”

    Exactly, but it will make the local justice system look as it really is-lying and guilty itself, or setting people up who are not guilty based on fear. Since that would prove they aren’t doing their job, that’s the real reason they don’t wan the test done-CYA.

  • I still don’t understand why Osborne himself wants this. He’s already served significant time for it.

  • I have no idea what’s going on in this comment section, but I did find the post very interesting.

    Whatever the crimes of this guy, I still have a hard time finding any justice in an approach that says exculpatory evidence can be suppressed just because. Alaska’s law is unjust, strikes me as unconstitutional, and should be fixed somehow.

  • Beli Mawr, BITH on the attack, Cuca Racha, Dan Martin he has so many names. What happened to Conchita, Santiago, D.Q., Big Betty, Jim and the others?

    I especially enjoy how they converse with each other. LOL

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