Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Briscoe’s Impact upon Forensic Scientists and the Law

From Ronald K. Bullis, Ph.D., J.D., via Forensic Mag:

"...Legal soothsaying is folly, but Briscoe’s facts and remand still have something to tell us. While another “test” case will undoubtedly arise to offer the Supreme Court a chance to elaborate on Confrontation Clause requirements, Melendez seems in no imminent danger of being overturned or seriously modified. In the meantime, state and lower federal courts will look to the “notice and demand” statutes, suggested in Melendez (Georgia, Ohio, and Texas), as models for their own statutes. Thus, forensic scientists will continue to be ordered to testify as to the procedure and accuracy of the results in their reports. They will also be cross-examined. While this role is not new for many forensic scientists, this role is likely to affect more forensic scientists and will require additional training just as it surely will result in a loss of lab time. Articulating and explaining lab analyses procedures and the scientific choices attending test conclusions requires different skills than making the analysis itself. Finally, an intriguing and related question is: which scientist will testify to what? As we have seen, some state laboratories have several scientists working on the same sample. Other labs have turnover rates such that some scientists will be employed elsewhere when a sample upon which they worked is admitted at trial. That singular issue requires its own article to address.

The Briscoe case raised more issue than answers. But even these issues, and the accompanying Briefs, sharpened the kinds and quality of answers the next Melendez application the Supreme Court will be asked to address ..."

Click here to read the whole article.


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