U.S. Supreme Court holds lab reports are testimonial

Charles R. Mullins, a partner at Coxwell & Associates, represents citizens accused of felony and misdemeanor drug offenses in Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi and all over the state. Last week, the United States Supreme Court handed down a opinion which will strengthen a citizen’s rights in Court. The opinion applies to drug cases but could extend to other cases such as DUI’s.

The facts of the case show that a man, Melendez-Diaz, was arrested for cocaine trafficking. At trial, the cocaine was introduced along with the lab tests showing that the the items seized were actually cocaine. Melendez-Diaz’ lawyer objected to the use of the lab results without having the actual person who conducted the testing available to testify. The lawyer argued that the Supreme Court’s decision in Crawford v. Washington required the person who conducted the testing to be present. The trial court disagree and so did the Massachusetts Supreme Court. The lawyer then appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court held that a state forensic analyst’s lab report that is prepared for use in a criminal prosecution is subject to the demands of the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause. With Justice Antonin G. Scalia writing for the majority and joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court reasoned that the lab reports constitute affidavits which fall within the “core class of testimonial statements” covered by the Confrontation Clause. Therefore, when Mr. Melendez-Diaz was not allowed to confront the persons who created the lab reports used in testimony at his trial, his Sixth Amendment right was violated.

Justice Thomas wrote a separate concurring opinion, emphasizing that he thought the Confrontation Clause was only implicated by statements made outside the courtroom when they are part of “formalized testimonial materials.” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy dissented and was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito. He criticized the majority for so cavalierly dispensing with the long held rule that scientific analysis could be introduced into evidence without testimony from the analyst who produced it.

If you have been arrested on drug charges or any other felony or misdemeanor, please call Chuck Mullins.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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