Washington Supreme Court Holds DNA Testing to be Presumed Favorable to Defendants

State v. Crumpton (2014)

The Supreme Court of Washington has clarified the showing a convict must make to obtain post-conviction DNA testing of biological evidence. The convict need not show that the test results would likely exclude him as the person who left the biological sample tested. Rather, he must show that if the results did exclude him, it would mean he is probably innocent of the crime.

In State v. Crumpton, Crumpton was convicted of a 1993 rape and burglary. The rape victim could not identify her rapist. Crumpton was arrested and charged when he was found with items stolen from the victim’s home.

Since Crumpton’ s conviction, Washington has established a procedure for convicts to seek DNA testing to prove their innocence. Crumpton used this procedure to seek new DNA testing of several items of biological material found at the scene of the rape. However, the trial court denied his motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Under the Washington procedure, a court should order DNA testing only if the convict shows “the likelihood that the DNA evidence would demonstrate innocence on a more probable than not basis.”

Crumpton argued that a trial court receiving a convict’s request should presume that the DNA results would be favorable to him. Two lower courts disagreed with him and refused to order the testing.

The Supreme Court agreed with Crumpton and reversed. Presuming DNA testing would exclude the convict as the donor of the biological material, the court reasoned, fits the policy against excluding relevant evidence. Here, the evidence to be tested came from the rapist—thus, if the test were favorable for the defendant, his innocence would be proven.

The supreme court ordered the DNA testing to occur.