Confrontation Clause Cases (Part 27)

by | Jun 16, 2024 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Court continued in relevant part: Exhibit S-2 further recites, in pre-printed language, that the specimen was “given to the requesting law enforcement officer” and “was taken pursuant to Section 1 of the New Jersey Public Law 1986, Chapter 189 7, and was taken in a medically acceptable manner.” In signing the form, Gallant certified that the information it contained was true, and that he was aware that he would be subject to punishment if his statements were willfully false.

Notably, Gallant did not testify at the defendant’s trial. There is no indication in the record that he was unavailable to appear for the State, under the standards of unavailability set forth in N.J.R.E. 804(a). Nor was Gallant subpoenaed to testify by the defense.

The State also moved into evidence at trial a Certified Laboratory Report (Exhibit S-5) and related toxicology worksheet and gas chromatography documents (Exhibit S-6). These documents   were generated by the State Police laboratory. The report was signed by Joseph Messana, a forensic scientist in the laboratory. According to his report, Messana possesses a master’s degree in an unspecified field of graduate study, has worked for a State forensic laboratory for fifteen years, and has qualified as an expert witness in court on twenty-one prior occasions.

The report indicates that Messana is “the person responsible for the analysis and the conclusions set forth in the . . . laboratory report,” although the worksheet accompanying the report suggests that the ethanol analysis of defendant’s blood may have been performed by a technician with the initials “TD.” Additionally, the gas chromatography worksheets reflect that people with the initials “JSM” (likely Joseph Messana), “TD,” “MB,” and “JC” had participated in that aspect of the testing.

Messana specifically certified on the report that “the equipment used to perform the type of analyses described in the report was functioning properly.” He further certified that “the test procedures used are accurate, reliable, objective in nature, and performed on a routine basis within the laboratory.”

This opinion demonstrates the importance of obtaining the raw data underlying the lab reports in criminal cases. It provides helpful insight as opposed to just providing the chemist’s conclusions.