The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the expert who examined DNA evidence does not necessarily need to testify at trial. In Williams v. Illinois, 10-8505, the court upheld the conviction of Sandy Williams even thought the expert who testified at his trial played no role in the tests that extracted genetic evidence from the victim’s sample, reported the Washington Post.
No one from the company that performed the analysis testified at trial and therefore was not subject to cross-examination concerning the the handling of the evidence or the actual analysis.
According to the Post, the court has previously ruled that defendants have the right to cross-examine the forensic analysts who prepare laboratory reports used at trial.
In this case, the state of Illinois said that the DNA expert who matched the two samples played the critical role — even though she did not actually extract the DNA samples and conduct the tests — and that she testified and was subjected to a thorough cross-examination.
The court split into three factions in this case. Four justices — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy — joined in a strong opinion that would give prosecutors more leeway in using lab reports without having to put the analysts who prepared them on the witness stand, reported the Post.
Four others — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Antonin Scalia and Sonia Sotomayor — said the Constitution does not permit the use of the lab analysis that helped convict Williams.
An analysis of crime and punishment from the perspective of a former prosecutor and current criminal justice practitioner.
The views expressed on this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or postions of any county, state or federal agency.