High Court Seen Unlikely To Reverse Lab-Testimony Ruling


The Supreme Court does not seem likely to overturn its 6-month-old ruling that crime lab reports may not be used against criminal defendants at trial unless the analysts responsible for them testify, says the NewYork Times. The court's membership has changed since the 5-to-4 decision in Melendez-Diaz vs. Massachusetts, which said that the Sixth Amendment's confrontation clause, which gives a criminal defendant the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against him,” does not allow the mere presentation of a lab report to prove, say, that white powder found with a defendant was cocaine.

Justice David Souter, who retired in June, was in the majority. He was succeeded by Sonia Sotomayor, prompting speculation that the court could quickly reverse course. Yesterday’s argument provided little reason to think that Sotomayor was inclined to do anything dramatic. She asked the first 10 questions, but she seemed focused on how to put the earlier decision into effect rather than whether it should be overruled. “I trust the trial process,” she said, suggesting that the issues will largely be sorted out on the ground. Most prosecutors, she said, would rather put on live testimony from analysts because it tends to be more compelling than paper records.

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