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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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