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. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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