For many years the Supreme Court allowed prosecutors to present evidence in an indirect manner which avoided the necessity of having witnesses confronted at trial, filtering even to our Criminal Justice Center in Clearwater Pinellas County, Forida where lab reports were found to be sufficient without testimony. However, the Supreme Court has begun to shift in favor of Defendant's rights to cross-examine witnesses especially where expert witness testimony is proffered thru reports rather than with the actual witness at trial. Interestingly for your favorite Pinellas Crime Lawyer & Supreme Court Spectator, it seems to be driven by the conservative wing of the Court.
Part of the underlying reasoning for this shift as earlier entries in this blog have shown is the failure of Government forensic laboratories to give unbiased results.
The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment is a focal point of recent litigation. See Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177 (2004); Melendez–Diaz v. Massachusetts, 129 S.Ct. 2527, 174 L.Ed.2d 314 (2009); Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 131 S.Ct. 2705, 180 L.Ed.2d 610 (2011). Listen to arguments of the case, see also for more Supreme Court audio arguments.
The Court’s opinion in Williams v. Illinois, argued December 6, should be announced soon: Is it a violation of the Confrontation Clause to allow an expert witness to testify about the results of DNA testing conducted by another analyst who has not appeared as a witness at the trial.
The First Circuit recently vacated a conviction over lack of confrontation (Ramos-Gonzlez)... In this cocaine case the government adds substitute chemist Morales to the witness list shortly before trial. Morales is called by the government testifying to the work of the previous chemist as the prosecutor failed to have Morales do his own testing... The Court stated that, “Morales's testimony was neither cumulative of nor sufficiently corroborated by alternative evidence, and it comprised the only compelling basis for the jury to conclude a critical element of the government's case—that the substance seized from the truck was cocaine. We cannot conclude that the presence of cocaine would have been proved without the testimony of Morales, and therefore the admission of his testimony was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.”