An Appeal to Remember

In Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, the Supreme Court ruled 5 – 4 that crime laboratory reports may not be used against criminal defendants at trial unless the analysts responsible for creating them give testimony and subject themselves to cross-examination. The Court held that the admission of sworn certificates containing the results of lab analysis, in place of live testimony, violated the Confrontation            Clause. The case is an extension of the 2004 decision in Crawford v. Washington, which ruled that the Sixth Amendment gave criminal defendants the “right to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” Melendez-Diaz marks significant transformation of the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause. Four dissenting justices said that scientific evidence should be treated differently than, say, statements from witnesses to a crime. They warned that the decision would subject the nation’s criminal justice system to “a crushing burden” and that it means “guilty defendants will go free, on the most technical grounds.”

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