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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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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