New Court Evidence Ruling Coming Soon

Only a year after the Supreme Court’s controversial Melendez-Diaz decision, court watchers are awaiting possible revisions to that decision. According to Forensic Magazine, the court has already heard arguments in Briscoe v. Virginia, a case that re-opens the question of whether requiring a lab analyst to testify about forensic and scientific evidence is necessary to comply with the law, when requested by the defense in a criminal case.

Under the Melendez decision, the court determined that the accused had a right to confront all scientific evidence under the Confrontation Clause of the Constitution. Previously, the prosecution was able to simply submit forensic documents, such as drug or DNA analysis.

The Briscoe case may once again change those rules. There is speculation that the change on the court, which now includes Justice Sotomayor, a former prosecutor, may make it more likely that the requirement will be rescinded or limited.

District Attorneys and prosecutors have held that this requirement is overly burdensome on the state. Many states must have scientific analysts available to testify in a wide variety of criminal cases, such as drug possession cases, where a drug analyst must verify that the substance identified was an illegal controlled substance, or in drunk driving cases, where a scientist may have to explain the breathalyzer results, and how the science measures and establishes an equivalence blood alcohol content (BAC) from a breath test machine.

Of course, we have previously argued that whether the decision is overly burdensome to the prosecution is irrelevant. The purpose of the Constitution is not to make prosecutions easier and go more smoothly. It is to protect the rights of citizens from a powerful government that can take away our liberty and freedom. It is to establish that every citizens is absolutely not guilty until proven innocent.

In any case, we expect to hear the results from Briscoe soon, and we’ll report the facts and add commentary here when it happens.

About David Matson