It took me awhile to track down the transcript of oral arguments from Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts and it’s 76 pages, so frankly I’m busy and I’m going to read it later, but sometimes (perhaps frequently?) I come across someone’s commentary on a subject that I completely agree with.
In this case, I even envy the headline “You have the right to confront your accuser, as long as it’s not too inconvenient”:
[Monday], the US Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that I think ought to be a no-brainer. The issue is this: in a criminal prosecution, can the state present a certified lab report as evidence without bringing in the person who prepared that report to testify? I frankly don’t understand why this is even a question.
The 6th Amendment protects the right of criminal defendants to confront their accusers. It’s obvious that an eyewitness who will testify he saw you commit the crime is an accuser as is the police officer who found the baggie of white powder in your coat pocket. But what about the lab tech who tested that white powder and decided it was cocaine? Well, isn’t the person who says the stuff you [possessed was marijuana/cocaine/whatever] just as much of an accuser as the person who says you [possessed] it? Like I said, it seems pretty obvious to me.
At the oral argument, the tack the state of Massachusetts took was that it would be an undue burden on the state to have to bring these witnesses to court in every case. Huh? It would be too inconvenient for the state to bother with each and every defendant’s confrontation clause right? Those who observed the argument don’t seem to think that a majority of the court will go for the state’s argument, but I’m perturbed that the argument wasn’t laughed out of court. The 6th Amendment does not contain a convenience exception.
Read the whole post. It’s excellent. Sarah says she is “confident that the Court will conclude that a decision in favor of the defendant in this case won’t unduly burden the 50 states”. I hope so, but I’m not sure I share her optimism.