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Meth conviction reversed over toxicology authentication

November 10, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a man’s conviction of operating a vehicle with meth in his blood and subsequently causing death after finding that the state failed to authenticate the toxicology report that found traces of drug in his blood sample.

In the case of William C. Williams v. State of Indiana, 82A04-1602-CR-295, Williams was driving his motorcycle in August 2013 when he ran into the back of a van that was stopped at an intersection, ejecting his passenger and girlfriend, Nancy Parsons, who died from her injuries. Williams was also transported to the hospital, where a blood draw tested positive for THC and meth.

Williams was subsequently charged with two counts of Class B felony operating a vehicle with a Schedule I or II controlled substance, marijuana and meth, in his blood causing death. During the trial in Vanderburgh Superior Court, Williams testified that he did not know how meth could have been in his blood and objected to the admission of State’s Exhibit 65, which contained the toxicology report that showed meth in his blood and the chain of custody for his blood sample. All of Exhibit 65 except for the two pages of the toxicology report was submitted to the jury, and Williams was convicted on both counts.

Williams did not contest his marijuana conviction but instead appealed the conviction related to meth, arguing that the state failed to establish a chain of custody for his blood sample “so as to allow the admission of the results of tests showing it contained methamphetamine.”

A panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed in a Thursday opinion, writing that the state had failed to properly authenticate Exhibit 65 because its Certificate of Authenticity contained only a notary signature as a witness, not a signature of a records custodian or other qualified person.

But the state argued that it had properly authenticated the exhibit by the testimony of Jennifer Turri, an analyst with NMS Labs, which completed the toxicology report that found meth in Williams’ blood. Turri testified that she did not physically produce the report, but that a computer generated it after the results of the Williams‘ blood sample test were submitted through the lab’s information system.

The Court of Appeals wrote Wednesday that because Turri’s testimony only partially explained how the toxicology report was created and did not address the other components of Exhibit 65, her testimony did not authenticate the exhibit.

Thus, at the request of the state, the appellate court allowed Williams’ marijuana conviction to stand but reversed his conviction related to meth.
 

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