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. "Am I bugging you? I don't mean to bug ya." If what I wrote below is too much social philosophy for Indiana attorneys, just take ten this vacay to watch The Lego Movie with kiddies and sing along where appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etzMjoH0rJw

  2. I've got some free speech to share here about who is at work via the cat's paw of the ACLU stamping out Christian observances.... 2 Thessalonians chap 2: "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last."

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