Confrontation Clause Cases (Part 2)

by | Apr 27, 2024 | Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Court continued in relevant part: 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 the test on Bullcoming’s blood sample. Bullcoming’s counsel objected, asserting that introduction of Caylor’s report without his testimony would 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 results, and (2) SLD analyst Razatos, although he did not participate in testing Bullcoming’s blood, qualified as an expert witness with respect to the testing machine and SLD procedures. The court affirmed Bullcoming’s conviction.

The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded. The Confrontation Clause, the opinion concludes, does not permit the prosecution to introduce a forensic laboratory report containing a testimonial certification, made to prove a fact at a criminal trial, through the in-court testimony of 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 the certification, unless that analyst is unavailable at trial, and the accused had an opportunity, pretrial, to cross-examine that scientist.

Under these circumstances, if the analyst who made the certification had died before trial and without a prior opportunity by the defense to cross-examine him, the prosecution would not be able to use the evidence at issue. The prosecution might be able to re-test the blood sample with a new chemist overseeing the process. Then, that chemist could be used to admit the result into evidence at trial.