the current court system doesnt sound like a very good system if this is true:

Instead, the argument highlighted the often messy nature of criminal trials .... where experts duel over how to interpret evidence, prosecutors withhold evidence and police fail to pursue all suspects.

Justices focus on trials in DNA issue

Toni Locy Associated Press Jan. 12, 2006 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - Convicted murderer Paul Gregory House wants to know how much more evidence he needs to persuade the Supreme Court to allow a judge to take another look at his case.

Twenty years after House was sentenced to death for killing a neighbor during an attempted rape, DNA testing revealed that semen found on the murder victim's nightgown and underwear belonged to her husband, not House.

On Wednesday, the justices considered how courts should treat newly discovered evidence of innocence years after convictions for capital crimes or other felonies.

Originally, House's case had generated excitement in legal circles because it gave the high court a chance to jump into the national debate over DNA testing and how courts should weigh advances in evaluations of biological evidence left at crimes scenes long ago.

But Wednesday's hourlong session before the high court dealt little with the DNA testing, which was not available when House was convicted of kidnapping, trying to rape and then killing Carolyn Muncey, a young mother of two, in Union County, Tenn., north of Knoxville, in July 1985.

Instead, the argument highlighted the often messy nature of criminal trials, where defendants get caught lying for inexplicable reasons, experts duel over how to interpret evidence, prosecutors withhold evidence and police fail to pursue all suspects.

For the court, the stakes are high. The justices are being asked to account for advances in science by adjusting legal standards aimed at bringing finality to criminal cases, or risk allowing the execution of an innocent person.

In the past decade, Congress and the Supreme Court have taken steps to limit what capital-punishment supporters characterized as endless appeals by prisoners.

But the advent of DNA testing in recent years has led to numerous exonerations and raised concerns among civil libertarians, prosecutors and Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens that an innocent person may be executed, or already has been.

House, who was on parole for a sex offense in Utah, was convicted of luring Muncey from her home by telling her that her husband, Hubert, had been hurt in a car accident. Her body was found the next afternoon in an area where witnesses had seen House.

Attorney Stephen Kissinger, who currently represents House, said House's original lawyer had failed to locate several witnesses who said years later that Hubert Muncey had abused his wife, had fought with her the night of her murder and had confessed later to killing her.

Had the jury had the benefit of the DNA test results, Justice Antonin Scalia said, "I would agree it would have been a much closer case."

But in his questioning, Scalia kept the focus on one of the strongest pieces of evidence remaining against House: specks of Muncey's blood found on his jeans.

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