Case: District Attorney's Office of Anchorage, AK v. Osborne

Date: Monday, March 2, 2009

Issue: Can a man who was convicted for the rape and assault of a woman claim his rights are being violated when having failed to challenge or order his own DNA testing at trial seek to do the same after his conviction?

Background: William Osborne and another man were convicted of raping and beating a prostitute near the Anchorage Airport. At trial, Osborne's lawyer decided against independently testing the DNA evidence gathered by investigators. Instead, it was determined that the state's broader DNA analysis was more helpful to Osborne's case. Nonetheless, the jury found him guilty and sentenced him to 26 years behind bars.

After a maze of mostly unsuccessful appeals seeking to retest the DNA evidence, Osborne finally found favor with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court reasoned Osborne has a Constitutional right to order more detailed DNA tests. Depending on the results of those tests, a judge could order a new trial. The district attorney's office says Osborne had his chance for more advanced DNA evidence at trial and shouldn't get a second crack now.

Case: Atlantic Sounding v. Townsend

Date: Monday, March 2, 2009

Issue: May a seaman recover punitive damages from his employer for injuries sustained on the job?

Background: In July 2005, Edgar Townsend was working on a tugboat when he slipped and injured his shoulder and clavicle. His bosses told him they would not cover his medical claims which under maritime traditions are covered by ship-owners. Townsend sued and sought punitive damages from Atlantic Sounding. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Townsend is able to sue for punitive damages noting a "willful and persistent failure" to cover his medical expenses. Atlantic Sounding has appealed to the Supreme Court saying the lower court ignored the proper high court precedent that would preclude Townsend's claims for punitive damages.