The U.S. Supreme Court may soon clarify its ruling last June that prohibited prosecutors from introducing crime lab reports without testimony from the analysts who prepared them, the New York Times reports. On Jan. 11, the high court will hear arguments in a case that raises questions about how lower courts may carry out its six-month-old precedent. Many state attorneys general and prosecutors hope the court will overrule its decision before it can take root, saying it is a costly, disruptive and dangerous misstep.
“Already data and anecdotal evidence are demonstrating an overwhelming negative impact,” said a brief submitted by 26 attorneys general last month. The ruling, they said, “is already proving unworkable.” Rather than overturning the court's June decision in the new case, which involves two Virginia cocaine trafficking convictions, the justices may simply clarify the ground rules for when and how analysts' testimony must be presented. Retired Justice David Souter was in the 5-to-4 vote that decided the cases; the views of his replacement, former prosecutor Sonia Sotomayor, are unknown on the issue.