Supreme Judicial Court, May 6, 2014

G.L. c. 278A, § 3 permits access to scientific testing where such testing previously has been conducted using a less advanced technique.

In 2012 the Legislature enacted G.L. c. 278A, “An Act providing access to forensic and scientific analysis,” allowing defendants incarcerated after conviction, who assert factual innocence, access to forensic and scientific evidence on the filing of a motion.

In 1999, the defendant was convicted of aggravated rape and other offenses.  The defendant’s deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) profile matched that of sperm found on underwear worn by the victim on the day of the offense.  The defendant sought, unsuccessfully, to have the sperm sample analyzed with a newer and more sophisticated technique for DNA testing and that initial DNA tests be performed on other biological evidence. Following the Legislature's enactment of G.L. c. 278A, the defendant filed two motions pursuant to G.L. c. 278A, § 3, again seeking the more sophisticated DNA testing.   A Superior Court judge denied his first motion on the ground that DNA testing already had been conducted, and also denied his renewed motion, noting that the evidence against the defendant was overwhelming.   The defendant appealed from the denial of his renewed § 3 motion, and the Court granted his application for direct appellate review.

The Court concluded that G.L. c. 278A, § 3, does indeed allow access to scientific testing where such testing previously has been conducted using a less advanced technique.  In so far as the judge denied the defendant’s motion on the ground that an older form of DNA testing previously had been conducted, the denial was error.   However, because the defendant’s motion did not contain information demonstrating that the requested analysis was not developed at the time of his conviction and provides no other explanation as to why the requested testing was unavailable at trial, the Court affirmed the denial of the motion.