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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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