Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Supreme Court to Take Up Another Sixth Amendment Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has agree to hear a new Sixth Amendment case. The new Confrontation Clause case is Williams v. Illinois. According to Lyle Denniston of the Scotusblog, the fact are as follows the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors could introduce the substance of a forensic analyst’s report on a DNA test of evidence by putting an expert witness on the stand and having her analyze the results, which showed a DNA match in a rape and kidnapping case. The lab analyst was called to testify, and the actual lab report itself was not admitted. The expert witness had had no part in making the analysis, and no personal knowledge of how the test was done. The state Supreme Court nevertheless concluded that there was no violation of the suspect’s confrontation right, because the findings of the lab report were being admitted not for their truth, but only to explain the expert’s opinion about the results.

The is is similar to Bullcoming v. New Mexico decided just last week by the U.S. Supreme Court. According to Dinniston,the Court in Bullcoming had ruled that a lab supervisor could not be a surrogate witness in place of a lab technician who prepared a report but did not appear, so the lab test was not admissible. Justice Sonia Sotomayor sought to show that the decision was a narrow one, and she listed several factual scenarios that she said were not covered wrote Denniston. One of them was a situation in which “an expert witness was asked for his independent opinion about underlying testimonial reports that were not themselves admitted into evidence.”

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