SCOTUS hears testimonial case

November 10, 2008
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The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today involving an issue that is currently before our state’s high court: whether lab reports are considered testimonial evidence.

SCOTUS heard arguments in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, about whether a state forensic analyst’s laboratory’s report prepared for use in a criminal prosecution is testimonial evidence. If it is, then the reports would be subject to the Confrontation Clause in the Sixth Amendment as determined in Crawford v. Washington in 2004.

Here in Indiana, our Court of Appeals saw two cases dealing with this same issue and the two panels produced different rulings on the subject of lab reports – one ruled they are testimonial, and one ruled they are business records.

The COA panel in Jackson v. State reversed Ricky Jackson’s drug conviction, finding he had the right to confront the lab technician who conducted the drug testing. The technician was unable to appear in court because she was on maternity leave. In Pendergrass v. State, that panel affirmed Pendergrass’ conviction of child molesting, find the DNA report to be a business record. Our Supreme Court granted transfer to Pendergrass in August.

With this issue pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, I’d be surprised if our state’s high court didn’t wait until SCOTUS made its decision to issue a ruling here. Any thoughts on whether lab reports are testimonial records? Should the lab technicians conducting the testing or writing the report have to testify in court?
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