Crime lab reports may not be used against criminal defendants at trial unless the analysts responsible for them testify and subject themselves to cross-examination, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday, 5 to 4, the New York Times reports. Dissenting justices warned that the decision would subject the nation's criminal justice system to “a crushing burden” and that it means “guilty defendants will go free, on the most technical grounds.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy, in dissent, said Philadelphia's 18 drug analysts will now each be required to testify in more than 69 trials next year, and Cleveland's six drug analysts in 117 trials each. For the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said, “The sky will not fall after today's decision. Scott Burns of the National District Attorneys Association called the ruling “a train wreck.” He added: “To now require that criminalists in offices and labs that are already burdened and in states where budgets are already being cut back, to travel to courtrooms and wait to say that cocaine is cocaine – we're still kind of reeling from this decision.” The decision came after a wave of scandals at crime laboratories that included hundreds of tainted cases in Michigan, Texas, and West Virginia.