Thursday, June 23, 2011

DWI Appeal - US Supremes Bar Blood Test Without Actual Analyst Testimony

In Bullcoming v. New Mexico, the government sought to introduce a blood test without having the analyst who performed the actual test appear and testify in court. The United States Supreme Court held that such a technique violates the Confrontation Clause, and reversed the conviction.

Here is the Summary from the court:

In Crawford v. Washington, 541 U. S. 36, 59, this Court held that the Clause permits admission of “[t]estimonialstatements of witnesses absent from trial . . . only where the declarant is unavailable, and only where the defendant has had a prior opportunity to cross-examine.” Later, in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachu-setts, 557 U. S. ___, the Court declined to create a “forensic evidence” exception to Crawford, holding that a forensic laboratory report, cre-ated specifically to serve as evidence in a criminal proceeding, ranked as “testimonial” for Confrontation Clause purposes. Absent stipula-tion, the Court ruled, the prosecution may not introduce such a re-port without offering a live witness competent to testify to the truth of the report’s statements. 557 U. S., at ___.

Petitioner Bullcoming’s jury trial on charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI) occurred after Crawford, but before Melendez-Diaz. Principal evidence against him was a forensic laboratory report certi-fying that his blood-alcohol concentration was well above the threshold for aggravated DWI. Bullcoming’s blood sample had been tested at the New Mexico Department of Health, Scientific Laboratory Division (SLD), by a forensic analyst named Caylor, who completed, signed, and certified the report. However, the prosecution neither called Caylor to testify nor asserted he was unavailable; the record showed only that Caylor was placed on unpaid leave for an undisclosed reason. In lieu of Caylor, the State called another analyst, Razatos, to validate the report. Razatos was familiar with the testing device used to analyze Bullcoming’s blood and with the laboratory’s testing procedures, but had neither participated in nor observed thetest on Bullcoming’s blood sample. Bullcoming’s counsel objected, asserting that introduction of Caylor’s report without his testimonywould violate the Confrontation Clause, but the trial court overruled the objection, admitted the SLD report as a business record, and permitted Razatos to testify. Bullcoming was convicted, and, while his appeal was pending before the New Mexico Supreme Court, this Court decided Melendez-Diaz. The state high court acknowledged that the SLD report qualified as testimonial evidence under Melendez-Diaz, but held that the report’s admission did not violate the Confrontation Clause because: (1) certifying analyst Caylor was a mere scrivener who simply transcribed machine-generated test re-sults, and (2) SLD analyst Razatos, although he did not participate intesting Bullcoming’s blood, qualified as an expert witness with re-spect to the testing machine and SLD procedures. The court affirmed Bullcoming’s conviction.

147 N. M. 487, 226 P. 3d 1, reversed and remanded.

JUSTICE GINSBURG delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to all but Part IV and footnote 6. The Confrontation Clause, the opinion concludes, does not permit the prosecution to introduce a forensic laboratory report containing a testimonial certification, made in order to prove a fact at a criminal trial, through the in-court testimonyof an analyst who did not sign the certification or personally perform or observe the performance of the test reported in the certification. The accused’s right is to be confronted with the analyst who made thecertification, unless that analyst is unavailable at trial, and the accused had an opportunity, pretrial, to cross-examine that particular scientist. Pp. 8–16.

(a)If an out-of-court statement is testimonial, it may not be introduced against the accused at trial unless the witness who made thestatement is unavailable and the accused has had a prior opportunity to confront that witness. Pp. 8–14.

(i)Caylor’s certification reported more than a machine-generated number: It represented that he received Bullcoming’s blood sampleintact with the seal unbroken; that he checked to make sure that the forensic report number and the sample number corresponded; that he performed a particular test on Bullcoming’s sample, adhering to a precise protocol; and that he left the report’s remarks section blank,indicating that no circumstance or condition affected the sample’s in-tegrity or the analysis’ validity. These representations, relating to past events and human actions not revealed in raw, machine-produced data, are meet for cross-examination. The potential ramifi-cations of the state court’s reasoning, therefore, raise red flags. Most witnesses testify to their observations of factual conditions or events.Where, for example, a police officer’s report recorded an objective fact such as the read-out of a radar gun, the state court’s reasoning would permit another officer to introduce the information, so long as he orshe was equipped to testify about the technology the observing officer deployed and the police department’s standard operating procedures. As, e.g., Davis v. Washington, 547 U. S. 813, 826, makes plain, however, such testimony would violate the Confrontation Clause. The comparative reliability of an analyst’s testimonial report does notdispense with the Clause. Crawford, 541 U. S., at 62. The analysts who write reports introduced as evidence must be made available forconfrontation even if they have “the scientific acumen of Mme. Curieand the veracity of Mother Teresa.” Melendez-Diaz, 557 U. S., at ___,n. 6. Pp. 10–11.

(ii)Nor was Razatos an adequate substitute witness simply be-cause he qualified as an expert with respect to the testing machine and the SLD’s laboratory procedures. Surrogate testimony of thekind Razatos was equipped to give could not convey what Caylor knew or observed about the events he certified, nor expose any lapses or lies on Caylor’s part. Significantly, Razatos did not know why Caylor had been placed on unpaid leave. With Caylor on the stand, Bullcoming’s counsel could have asked Caylor questions designed toreveal whether Caylor’s incompetence, evasiveness, or dishonesty ac-counted for his removal from work. And the State did not assert that Razatos had any independent opinion concerning Bullcoming’s blood alcohol content. More fundamentally, the Confrontation Clause does not tolerate dispensing with confrontation simply because the court believes that questioning one witness about another’s testimonial statements provides a fair enough opportunity for cross-examination. Although the purpose of Sixth Amendment rights is to ensure a fairtrial, it does not follow that such rights can be disregarded because,on the whole, the trial is fair. United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez, 548 U.S. 140, 145. If a “particular guarantee” is violated, no substituteprocedure can cure the violation. Id., at 146. Pp. 11–14.

(b)Melendez-Diaz precluded the State’s argument that introduction of the SLD report did not implicate the Confrontation Clause because the report is nontestimonial. Like the certificates in Melendez-Diaz, the SLD report is undoubtedly an “affirmation made for the purpose of establishing or proving some fact” in a criminal proceeding. 557 U. S., at ___. Created solely for an “evidentiary purpose,” id., at ___, the report ranks as testimonial. In all material respects, the SLD report resembles the certificates in Melendez-Diaz. Here, as there, an officer provided seized evidence to a state laboratory required by law to assist in police investigations. Like the Melendez-Diaz analysts, Caylor tested the evidence and prepared a certificateconcerning the result of his analysis. And like the Melendez-Diaz
certificates, Caylor’s report here is “formalized” in a signed document, Davis, 547 U. S., at 837, n. 2. Also noteworthy, the SLD report formcontains a legend referring to municipal and magistrate courts’ rulesthat provide for the admission of certified blood-alcohol analyses.Thus, although the SLD report was not notarized, the formalities at-tending the report were more than adequate to qualify Caylor’s assertions as testimonial. Pp. 14–16.

Looking for a Top DUI DWI Attorney? Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!

No comments:

Blog Archive