The Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause guarantees criminal defendants the right to “confront witnesses against them.” Specifically, the Clause ensures a criminal defendant's right to confront witnesses who testify against him by the unique medium, or “crucible,” of cross-examination. Although federal and state rules of evidence prohibiting hearsay and the Confrontation Clause are designed to protect similar interests, whether or not admission of a piece of evidence violates a defendant's rights under the Confrontation Clause is a separate analysis than whether that same piece of evidence is admissible under a rule of evidence. In 2004, the United States Supreme Court held in Crawford v. Washington that the Confrontation Clause applies only to “testimonial” statements. However, the Court left “for another day” the creation of a comprehensive definition of “testimonial.” “One of the most difficult issues presented” by Crawford is whether forensic laboratory reports are “testimonial” for the purposes of the Confrontation Clause. Although forensic laboratory reports are widely admitted at criminal trials in lieu of live testimony from the technicians who prepared the reports, the Supreme Court of the United States has not yet addressed this issue. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, however, recently addressed this issue in State v. Mangos and held that forensic lab reports are “testimonial.” The Supreme Court of the United States is currently reviewing this issue in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. The Supreme Court should follow the Law Court's reasoning and hold forensic laboratory reports to be testimonial. Although forensic laboratory reports were plainly not within the contemplation of the Founders as they drafted the Constitution, laboratory reports, which amount to statements made by laboratory technicians at the behest of law enforcement and in preparation for litigation, are precisely the type of statements that the Confrontation Clause was designed to address. In light of the weight jurors assign to forensic laboratory evidence and the results of a recent study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, which reveals the abysmal state of state forensic laboratories, it is imperative that the Supreme Court follow the Law Court in holding forensic laboratory results to be testimonial and, therefore, subject to the Confrontation Clause.
"Another Day" Has Dawned: The Maine Supreme Judicial Court Holds Laboratory Evidence Subject to the Confrontation Clause in State v. Mangos,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol62/iss1/11