Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Kentucky in a unanimous decision, reversed a lower court ruling and opined that appellants were entitled to DNA testing in a non-capital case. The testing was sought by two men convicted in the 1992 murder of Rhonda Sue Warford. The men have always claimed innocence.
The opinion reflected the high court’s surprise by the state’s resistance to do the testing in view of the state’s own argument that the testing might not exculpate the appellants but instead serve to incriminate a third person. From the opinion:
“First of all, we are mystified, if not amazed, that the Commonwealth has such little interest in the possibility that DNA testing might lead to the ￼prosecution and conviction of a guilty person heretofore uncharged and now at large upon the Commonwealth…
…we proclaim that evidence admitted into criminal trials in this state belongs to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It does not belong to the Commonwealth’s Attorney. The latter is charged with the duty to preserve and protect the integrity of the evidence, not to hoard it. The Innocence Project in this case offered to have the evidence tested at a fully-accredited lab and to pay for the expense of testing. Reasonable as this proposal may seem, it is not enough. Safeguards must be in place to protect the chain of custody and integrity of the evidence while it is being tested. The trial court is in the best position to establish the appropriate guidelines and monitor the process.
We hold that Appellants are entitled to the testing they seek. Accordingly, the order of the Meade Circuit Court denying Appellants’ motion is reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
All sitting. All concur.”
In opposing post-conviction DNA testing, prosecutors here argue that even if the testing excludes the defendants, it may not be proof of innocence but rather indication of an additional perpetrator. The Kentucky Supreme Court has implied a very good question. Is this not also a strong reason to do the testing?
Read the full opinion (here).