Confrontation Clause Cases (Part 38)

by | Jul 8, 2024 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Appellate Division continued in relevant part: However, other courts following Crawford have reached different conclusions. For example, in State v. Caulfield, the Minnesota Supreme Court classified as testimonial a report from a state laboratory identifying a seized substance as cocaine. The court observed that the lab report had three characteristics fitting the generic descriptions of testimonial statements suggested by the Supreme Court in Crawford: (1) the “lab analyst submitting the report attested to her findings;” (2) the report “functioned as the equivalent of testimony” on the identification of the substance; and (3) the report was “prepared at the request of the police for the prosecution of defendant, and was offered at trial specifically to prove an element of the crimes with which he was charged.” Similar findings of inadmissibility, at times with comparable reasoning, have been reached in other jurisdictions after Crawford.

We recognize that the state of the law following the United States Supreme Court’s pronouncements in Crawford, Davis and now Whorton, is most assuredly evolving. We also are very mindful that our own Supreme Court has yet to address these constitutional issues substantively. Nonetheless, we must decide the case before us without the luxury of awaiting more comprehensive or definitive national guidance on the contours of “testimonial” declarations.

Although we surely appreciate the practical quandaries created by post-Crawford jurisprudence, we are unpersuaded that the State Police laboratory reports and the blood sample certificate admitted over defendant’s objection in this case were non-testimonial simply because they were technical in nature or because they were prepared in the ordinary course of a DWI investigation. While the information on those records is technical in many, but not all, respects, we cannot say that their certified contents are beyond the scope of testimonial assertions that a defendant is entitled to test through cross-examination in a courtroom. We therefore reaffirm our prior holdings in Berezasnky and Renshaw and hold that, under the prevailing law of the Sixth Amendment, defendant was constitutionally entitled to cross-examine the declarants who authored those documents.

Appellate courts are faced with a difficult task in situations in which they believe the Supreme Court will ultimately reverse binding law. On the one hand, they are required to apply binding law to the instant case. On the other, they are required to issue a decision that will not be reversed.