Scalia Helps Criminal Defendants With Stance on Confrontation Clause


Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court’s most outspoken conservative, he has led a pro-defendant faction at the high court in reversing convictions for murder, drug dealing, wife beating, and drunken driving, says the Los Angeles Times. In early December, the court will hear the case of a Chicago rapist who claims his 6th Amendment right to confront his accusers was violated because prosecutors did not put on the witness stand a lab technician from Maryland who conducted the DNA test that sent him to prison.

The claim might have been a loser even during the court’s liberal era. With Scalia leading the charge, it may succeed, a prospect that worries prosecutors and crime lab directors across the nation. Scalia’s insistence on following the “original” Constitution can lead to unexpected results. For him, there are no shades of gray and no halfway measures. The 6th Amendment to the Constitution says the “accused shall enjoy the right [ ] to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” To Scalia, this not only gives defendants the right to challenge actual witnesses, but also to bar testimony from all “witnesses” who did not or cannot testify in court, even if the witness is dead. “This is not a left-right split. This is principle versus pragmatism,” said University of Michigan law Prof. Richard Friedman. For Scalia, “this is all about adhering to originalism,” even if the results seem strange.

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