Supreme Court Rules Defendant Has Right to Live Testimony of Lab Chemist
The Supreme Court today decided Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts (opinion here.) It ruled for the defense, which had objected to the state's reliance on an affidavit to prove a substance was cocaine. The defense said it was entitled to the live testimony of the chemist so it could cross-examine him or her. The Court agreed with the defense that live testimony was required under the Sixth Amendment's right to confront witnesses.
At petitioner’s state-court drug trial, the prosecution introduced certificates of state laboratory analysts stating that material seized by police and connected to petitioner was cocaine of a certain quantity. As required by Massachusetts law, the certificates were sworn to before a notary public and were submitted as prima facie evidence of what they asserted.
Petitioner objected, asserting that Crawford v. Washington, 541 U. S. 36, required the analysts to testify in person. The trial court disagreed, the certificates were admitted, and petitioner was convicted. ....
Held: The admission of the certificates violated petitioner’s Sixth Amendment right to confront the witnesses against him.
In my view, too many defense lawyers stipulate to the chemical evidence rather than take on a chemist. Maybe this decision will encourage more of them to challenge the evidence. [More...]
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