The predictions are dire about last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring lab analysts to be in court to testify about their tests, says the Washington Post: In New York, murderers could walk free. In Virginia, drunken driving cases could be dismissed. Nationwide, thousands of drug cases might have to be thrown out of court annually. Lab sheets that identify a substance as a narcotic or breath-test printouts describing a suspect’s blood-alcohol level are no longer sufficient evidence, the court ruled.
“This is the biggest case for the defense since Miranda,” said Fairfax, Va., defense lawyer Paul McGlone, referring to the Supreme Court ruling that required police to inform defendants of their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He said judges “are no longer going to assume certain facts are true without requiring the prosecution to actually put on their evidence.” In many places, crime labs that test drug and DNA samples face huge backlogs even when scientists and analysts do not have to testify. If the workers must leave labs to appear in court, those backlogs will grow.