June 23, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court decision criminal law decision Bullcoming v. New Mexico

Bullcoming v. New Mexico      Confrontation - Crawford v. Washington – Surrogate Lab Tech Testimony
Facts: New Mexico alleged and convicted Mr. Bullcoming of driving while intoxicated (DWI)– akin to driving under the influence in Colorado. At trial, the state did not produce the technician who actually conducted the blood alcohol analysis. Instead, the state had another technician who neither consulted, knew, or could verify the lab report – other than it was an official report. Mr. Bullcoming objected under the Confrontation Clause.
Issue: Whether New Mexico violated Mr. Bullcoming’s confrontation rights by allowing a surrogate lab tech can testify to the results of another lab tech’s report, provide foundation for that report, and admit the report into evidence as a business record?
Held: Yes.
Reasoning: Justice Ginsberg wrote the decision for the five-member majority, with Justices Scalia, Thomas, Sotomayor, and Kagan joining the majority opinion. Justices Breyer, Alito, Roberts, and Kennedy dissented.
            Justice Ginsberg wrote, “We hold that surrogate testimony of that order does not meet the constitutional requirement. The accused's right is to be confronted with the analyst who made the certification, unless that analyst is unavailable at trial, and the accused had an opportunity, pretrial, to cross-examine that particular scientist.”
            “Accordingly, the analysts who write reports that the prosecution introduces must be made available for confrontation even if they possess ‘the scientific acumen of Mme. Curie and the veracity of Mother Teresa.’” quoting Melendez-Dias v. Massachusettes, 129 S.Ct. 2527 (2009)(you can always tell a Scalia quote).

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