Bullcoming v. New Mexico

564 U.S. 647, 131 S. Ct. 2705 (2011)

 

RULE:

A forensic laboratory report ranks as testimonial for purposes of the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause. The report had been created specifically to serve as evidence in a criminal proceeding. Absent stipulation, the prosecution may not introduce such a report without offering a live witness competent to testify to the truth of the statements made in the report.

FACTS:

Petitioner Donald Bullcoming was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI). The principal evidence against the petitioner was a forensic laboratory report certifying that the petitioner’s blood-alcohol concentration was well above the threshold for aggravated DWI. At trial, the prosecution did not call the analyst who signed the certification as a witness. Instead, the State called another analyst who was familiar with the laboratory's testing procedures, but had neither participated in nor observed the test on the petitioner’s blood sample. The defendant asserted that the evidence presented by the prosecution  was violative of the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause. The New Mexico Supreme Court determined that although the blood-alcohol analysis was testimonial, the Confrontation Clause did not require the certifying analyst's in-court testimony. Instead, New Mexico's high court held that live testimony of another analyst satisfied the constitutional requirements.

ISSUE:

Did the introduction of a forensic laboratory report containing a testimonial certification, made for the purpose of proving a particular fact through the in-court testimony of a scientist who did not sign the certification or perform or observe the test reported in the certification, violate the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause?

ANSWER:

Yes

CONCLUSION:

The U.S. Supreme Court held that admission of the report of defendant's blood alcohol level violated defendant's right to confront the analyst who prepared the report. The report was clearly testimonial in nature as a statement made in order to prove a fact at defendant's criminal trial, and the testimony of the substitute analyst who did not perform or observe the reported test did not satisfy the right to confrontation. Further, the report did not consist exclusively of a machine-generated number but also indicated that the analyst properly received defendant's sample, performed testing on the sample adhering to a precise protocol, and observed no circumstance or condition affecting the integrity of the sample or the validity of the analysis, and the substitute analyst could not convey what the reporting analyst knew or observed, or expose any lapses or inaccuracies on the part of the reporting analyst.

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