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Justices: Lab tech does not need to testify

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The Indiana Supreme Court Thursday concluded that a laboratory technician involved in the chain of custody of DNA evidence is not required to testify at trial in order to satisfy the demands of a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right of confrontation.

In Scott Speers v. State of Indiana, 55S01-1312-CR-841, Scott Speers challenged his convictions of Class C felony burglary and Class D felony theft, arguing the trial court erred by admitting DNA evidence in violation of his Sixth Amendment right of confrontation.

A gun store in Martinsville was robbed and police found what appeared to be blood on two pieces of broken glass. Officer Jim Bradley, the evidence technician, put each piece in separate boxes and sealed them. The evidence went to the Indiana State Police lab for testing. Nichole Stickle, a lab tech, transferred the blood drops from the glass and swabbed them onto a cloth for testing. Speers was identified as a suspect.

Characterizing as a “crucial step” the transferring of blood from a piece of glass to a swab for testing, Speers argued his right of confrontation was violated because the technician who performed this function “never testified nor was subject to cross examination.” Lori James, a forensic DNA analyst for the ISP lab, conducted the analysis of the swabs taken from the glass, and she testified at Speers’ trial.

The justices rejected Speers’ claim that Williams v. Illinois, 132 S. Ct. 2221 (2012), controls because in his case, both DNA profiles were analyzed by a single analyst. But they did concede that Pendergrass v. State, 913 N.E.2d 703 (Ind. 2009), in which the Court of Appeals relied to reject Speers’ confrontation clause argument, has been undermined by subsequent authority from the Supreme Court of the United States.

But that subsequent authority confirms that Speers’ right of confrontation was not violated, Justice Robert Rucker concluded, citing Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 131 S. Ct. 2705 (2011).

“Hence although Pendergrass provides the State no refuge, Speers nonetheless cannot prevail on his Sixth Amendment claim. In this case the sole analyst who conducted the DNA testing and prepared the laboratory reports that were introduced as exhibits did in fact testify at trial. This is precisely the procedure dictated by Bullcoming,” Rucker wrote.

“The significance of any gap created by the absence of Stickle’s testimony was a matter for the jury to weigh. The trial court did not err by admitting the DNA evidence over Speers’ Confrontation Clause objection.”

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  1. I will be filing a lawsuit in Tippecanoe County for so many violations in a case we became involved in, including failure to contact through mail, Violation of 4th Amendment rights, Violation of Civil Rights, and so on. Even the Indiana Ombudsmen Bureau found violations and I have now received the report and they are demanding further training in Tippecanoe County. I am going to make sure they follow through!!!

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  3. I thought the purpose of the criminal justice center was to consolidate all the criminal services and get them out of downtown to clean up the place. Why in the HELL are the civil courts moving? What a burden to all the downtown law firms. Now we all get to work downtown, but then have to get in a car and COMMUTE to court? Who approved this idiocy?

  4. I drive through the neighborhood whenever I go to the City-County Building or the Federal Courthouse. The surrounding streets are all two way with only two lanes of traffic, and traffic is very slow during rush hour. I hope that enough money has been allocated to allow for improvement of the surrounding streets.

  5. I have had an ongoing custody case for 6 yrs. I should have been the sole legal custodial parent but was a victim of a vindictive ex and the system biasedly supported him. He is an alcoholic and doesn't even have a license for two yrs now after his 2nd DUI. Fast frwd 6 yrs later my kids are suffering poor nutritional health, psychological issues, failing in school, have NO MD and the GAL could care less, DCS doesn't care. The child isn't getting his ADHD med he needs and will not succeed in life living this way. NO one will HELP our family.I tried for over 6 yrs. The judge called me an idiot for not knowing how to enter evidence and the last hearing was 8 mths ago. That in itself is unjust! The kids want to be with their Mother! They are being alienated from her and fed lies by their Father! I was hit in a car accident 3 yrs ago and am declared handicapped myself. Poor poor way to treat the indigent in Indiana!

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