Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An Interesting Development

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday (11-10-2008) in a case that could have broad implications for how prosecutors present evidence from crime laboratories at trial.

Many states allow reports from crime laboratories to be submitted to juries through written certifications rather than live testimony. That practice is convenient, but it may run afoul of the Sixth Amendment’s “confrontation clause,” which guarantees criminal defendants the right to confront the witnesses against them.

Several justices seemed to struggle to find the dividing line between the kinds of information that must be presented through live testimony and those that are routine, reliable or tangential enough to require only a written certification. The justices also indicated that they were aware of recent scandals at major crime laboratories involving the flawed analysis of blood, hair, ballistics and other evidence.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer cited a supporting brief filed by the National Innocence Network in the case, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, No. 07-591. The brief, Justice Breyer said, “is filled with horror stories of how police labs or other labs have really been way off base and moreover really wrong.”

Read the rest of this article from the New York Times by
clicking here.

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