Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cert grant on the surrogate witness issue

I just realize I didn't post the first part of this message a few hours ago, when I thought I did!

The Supreme Court granted cert today in Bullcoming v. New Mexico, No. 09-10876. This is likely to be a very significant follow-up to Melendez-Diaz, posing the issue of whether forensic lab results may be introduced through a surrogate witness. That is, given that the results must be proved through a live witness, may that witness be an analyst who has no first-hand knowledge about the matters as to which he is testifying?

Here are the following documents in Bullcoming: the cert petition, the state’s brief in opposition to the petition, and the reply brief in support of the petition.

And, while I'm at it, here is a decision of the state same court, issued the same day as Bullcoming, in a companion case, State v. Aragon, 225 P.3d 1280. In Bullcoming, the court holds that one analyst can testify to the facts reported by an absent analyst; in Aragon, the court holds that one analyst cannot pass on the absent analyst's opinions. I do not believe the distinction will hold.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Decision on remand in Briscoe

The Virginia Supreme Court today issued its decision in Briscoe on remand from the United States Supreme Court. You can read it by clicking here">. The court held that the former Virginia statutory scheme (under which the defendant had to call a lab analyst as his witness if he wanted to examine the analyst) was unconstitutional. This, of course, was the point that I sought to establish in bringing the petition for certiorari; Melendez-Diaz made the point clear, and now the Virginia Supreme Court has drawn the obvious conclusion.

The court held that the error was harmless in Briscoe’s case, but Cypress’s conviction was reversed. I expect his case will plead out.