ILNews

Defendant had right to confront lab technician

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a defendant's drug conviction, finding his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation was denied when he was unable to depose or cross-examine the lab technician who prepared a report stating cocaine was found in his car.

In Ricky L. Jackson v. State of Indiana, No. 27A02-0710-CR-902, Ricky Jackson appealed his conviction of dealing in cocaine, invoking the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), which ruled that when testimonial statements are at issue, a defendant has the right to confrontation.

Jackson was stopped by police, who found cocaine in his car. A lab technician tested and verified what was found in Jackson's vehicle was cocaine, but the technician was on maternity leave during Jackson's trial and did not testify. Her supervisor at the Indiana State Police Laboratory testified in her place and used the certificate of analysis showing the drug was cocaine. The trial court admitted the certificate into evidence over Jackson's objection.

But Jackson's drug conviction must be reversed because the technician didn't testify at his trial nor was he able to depose her before trial, wrote Judge Edward Najam.

The appellate court relied on the Crawford decision and a ruling from the Supreme Court of Florida on this same issue to answer a question of first impression in Indiana: whether a certificate of analysis or lab report used to prove an element of a charged crime constitutes a testimonial statement under Crawford.

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the Florida high court's finding that a lab report prepared for a criminal trial that isn't backed up by the preparer's testimony at trial violates the defendant's rights under Crawford and the Sixth Amendment.

In the instant case, the certificate of analysis is a testimonial statement under Crawford and isn't admissible under the business record exception to the hearsay rule under Indiana Evidence Rule 803, as the state argues, wrote Judge Najam.

The appellate court reversed Jackson's conviction but wrote in a footnote the reversal does allow the state to retry Jackson on this same charge.
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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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