Monday, January 25, 2010

Confrontation Clause and Lab Reports???

Well I was hoping that the Supreme Court might take the opportunity in Briscoe v. Virginia to clarify its opinion from last term in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, but it passed.  Instead of articulating what exactly the confrontation clause requires of the State when offering lab reports into evidence, the Court merely stated, in a per curiam opinion,
"We vacate the judgment of the Supreme Court of Virginia and remand the case for further proceedings not inconsistent with the opinion in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U. S. ___ (2009)."
Hopefully, the Court will seize its next opporutunity to answer the question when it hears, City of Ontario v. Quon this term, but from the looks of it, I doubt it will.  So in the wake of Crawford and Melendez-Diaz, and now Briscoe, we still don't know...
  • What parts of a lab report are "testimonial" triggering Crawford and the Sixth Amendment?
  • If a lab report is testimonial, who from the lab must testify in order to satisfy the CC?
  • Would the Supreme Court require all lab technicians who took part in operating the machinery which led to the creation of the report testify?  
  • Does it satisfy the CC if a supervisor of the lab testifies alone?
These are the burning questions with which we are left.  In fact, these are questions that many of the justices asked of the counsel in both Melendez-Diaz and Briscoe.  I guess we will have to wait while the justices figure out the answers for themselves.  Much like Crawford, the law provides more questions than answers.

Thanks to the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog for alerting me to the release of the Briscoe opinion.