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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. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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