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Monday, November 10, 2008

Courts - More on: Confrontation clause case re admissibility of crime lab report

As the ILB noted yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing/heard oral arguments today at 1:00 PM in the case of Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, a confrontation clause case involving whether a crime lab report is, itself, a form of testimony.

As the ILB noted in this entry on August 19th, Indiana has had two such cases. One, Richard Pendergrass v. State of Indiana (7/8/08), was argued before our Supreme Court on Oct. 9. No ruling has yet been issued. The COA ruling in Pendergrass:

Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the trial court properly admitted State’s Exhibits 1, 2, and 3 and related testimony concerning DNA analysis and the subsequent test result without the testimony of the laboratory technician who performed the actual testing; and Pendergrass’ confrontational rights pursuant to the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution were not implicated when he was denied the opportunity to confront and cross-examine the laboratory technician who performed the DNA analysis. Affirmed.
Pendergrass was cited in anopther COA opinion, Ricky L. Jackson v. State of Indiana , issued by a different panel on Aug. 12th, which held:
Thus, we reject the State’s contention that the Certificate of Analysis is admissible under the business record exception to the hearsay rule under Indiana Evidence Rule 803. Cf. Pendergrass v. State, 889 N.E.2d 861 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008) (holding Confrontation Clause inapplicable to use of Certificate of Analysis pertaining to DNA test where Certificate used to provide context for expert’s testimony, not to prove element of charged crime), trans. pending. Neither is the Certificate admissible through Ballard’s [the lab supervisor] expert testimony under Indiana Evidence Rule 703. Jackson’s Sixth Amendment right to confrontation is not subordinate to a rule of evidence under the circumstances of this case. As the Court stated in Crawford, “[w]here testimonial statements are involved, we do not think the Framers meant to leave the Sixth Amendment’s protection to the vagaries of the rules of evidence[.]” 541 U.S. at 61. In sum, the Court in Crawford rejected “reliable hearsay” as a substitute for the right of confrontation. See Giles, 128 S. Ct. at 2695 (Souter, J., concurring in part). Jackson’s conviction must be reversed.
A petition to transfer was filed in Jackson, Sept. 15th.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 10, 2008 01:49 PM
Posted to Courts in general | Ind. App.Ct. Decisions | Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions