[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; briefs] in two cases on Monday. In District Attorney’s Office v. Osborne [argument transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether a defendant has the right to obtain post-conviction access to the state’s biological evidence under Section 1983 [text] or the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process clause. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that Osborne has a right to access the evidence against him on appeal, even though his lawyer made a strategic decision to forgo independent DNA analysis for the trial. The petitioner in the case, the State of Alaska, argued that Osborne does not have a right to the evidence under Section 1983 because the state already allows defendants to access such evidence through a habeas corpus petition if they have made an appeal based on actual innocence, which Osborne has not done.
In Atlantic Sounding v. Townsend [argument transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether an injured seaman may recover punitive damages for the willful failure of his employer to pay a basic living allowance, wages that he otherwise would have earned, and benefits to cover medical expenses. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit had affirmed [opinion, PDF] a lower court ruling that Townsend could recover the damages. Atlantic Sounding, the petitioner in case, contended that the applicable statutes, the Jones Act [text] and the Death on the High Seas Act [text], do not provide for such expenses.