Monday, December 21, 2009

Supremes to revisit confrontation question

The US Supreme Court may be rethinking its ruling in the Melendez-Diaz case that prohibited prosecutors from introducing lab reports into evidence without presenting live testimony to authenticate the findings. The Court held that lab reports were evidential in nature and that a criminal defendant's right to confrontation demanded that a live witness present the findings.

Local prosecutors and state attorneys general have been wringing their hands ever since over the costs of complying with the new rule.

The Court will hear two Virginia drug trafficking cases in which prosecutors used Virginia's new "hybrid" procedure: a lab report is introduced into evidence and the defendant is given the opportunity to cross-examine the analyst.

Virginia's plan may look good -- but once the report is entered into evidence, the damage is done. The fight is over the admissibility of the report and Virginia's plan just assumes that the report is admissible and that any questions raised during cross examination go to the weight, not the admissibility of the report.

I look at it this way, the analysts who do the testing and prepare the reports are hired by the state to assist the state in prosecuting people accused of criminal acts. Hold the state's feet to the fire and make them do their jobs.

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