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SCOTUS won't take Indiana lab tech case

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The nation’s highest court won’t take a case from the Indiana Supreme Court, which decided last year that it did not violate a man’s Sixth Amendment rights for a lab technician who’d processed DNA evidence to not testify at trial.

Justices on the Supreme Court of the United States met in private conference last week to consider the case of Richard Pendergrass v. Indiana, No. 09-866 from St. Joseph County. The issue was whether the Confrontation Clause permits the prosecution to introduce DNA profiles created by a certain chemical process as recorded by a “non-testifying” lab analyst and a computer, and having the analyst’s supervisor and a forensic DNA expert testify rather than the person who actually did the work.

The SCOTUS denied the writ of certiorari, likely because the court had decided a similar case on that issue last year and didn’t see a need to revisit it here.

This decision leaves in place the Indiana justices’ split-decision from September in Richard Pendergrass v. State of Indiana, No. 71S03-0808-CR-445.

In that decision, a majority found that the proof submitted during the Pendergrass trial was consistent with the Sixth Amendment based on the SCOTUS ruling in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 129 S. Ct. 2527 (2009), decided just months before. In that case, no witnesses were called to testify on the certificates of analysis that said the substance found in seized bags was cocaine. The SCOTUS held those certificates were testimonial and the defendant had the right to confront those who swore to the accuracy of the tests.

The Indiana justices in Pendergrass interpreted the majority opinion in Melendez-Diaz to say that not everyone who worked on the evidence must be called and the Confrontation Clause leaves discretion with the prosecution on which evidence to present. They believed Pendergrass' right to confrontation wasn't violated because the lab technician's supervisor, who personally checked the test results, and an expert who used that data to interpret the results were put on the stand for cross-examination during his trial.
 

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  1. Paul Ogden doing a fine job of remembering his peer Gary Welsh with the post below and a call for an Indy gettogether to celebrate Gary .... http://www.ogdenonpolitics.com/2016/05/indiana-loses-citizen-journalist-giant.html Castaways of Indiana, unite!

  2. It's unfortunate that someone has attempted to hijack the comments to promote his own business. This is not an article discussing the means of preserving the record; no matter how it's accomplished, ethics and impartiality are paramount concerns. When a party to litigation contracts directly with a reporting firm, it creates, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest. Court reporters, attorneys and judges are officers of the court and must abide by court rules as well as state and federal laws. Parties to litigation have no such ethical responsibilities. Would we accept insurance companies contracting with judges? This practice effectively shifts costs to the party who can least afford it while reducing costs for the party with the most resources. The success of our justice system depends on equal access for all, not just for those who have the deepest pockets.

  3. As a licensed court reporter in California, I have to say that I'm sure that at some point we will be replaced by speech recognition. However, from what I've seen of it so far, it's a lot farther away than three years. It doesn't sound like Mr. Hubbard has ever sat in a courtroom or a deposition room where testimony is being given. Not all procedures are the same, and often they become quite heated with the ends of question and beginning of answers overlapping. The human mind can discern the words to a certain extent in those cases, but I doubt very much that a computer can yet. There is also the issue of very heavy accents and mumbling. People speak very fast nowadays, and in order to do that, they generally slur everything together, they drop or swallow words like "the" and "and." Voice recognition might be able to produce some form of a transcript, but I'd be very surprised if it produces an accurate or verbatim transcript, as is required in the legal world.

  4. Really enjoyed the profile. Congratulations to Craig on living the dream, and kudos to the pros who got involved to help him realize the vision.

  5. 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?

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