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On 28 Nov. 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that failure by the police to preserve physical evidence that could prove a defendant's innocence does not violate the constitutional right to due process of law unless it can be proved that the police acted in “bad faith.” In the case of Arizona v. Youngblood, the state's Court of Appeals had overturned Larry Youngblood's conviction for the kidnapping and sodomy of a ten-year-old boy on the ground that the police neglected to test semen stains on the victim's clothing, or to preserve that evidence by storing it in their freezer, thereby precluding the opportunity to compare the assailant's blood type with the defendant's when he was arrested a few weeks later. The State of Arizona appealed that ruling, and the Supreme Court, by a 6 to 3 vote, in an opinion written by a former Arizonian, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, reinstated Mr. Youngblood's conviction.
Clinical associate professor of pathology, University of Pittsburgh Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA
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