What the hell is a "Confrontation Clause"?

Posted by William Bly | Oct 16, 2013 | 0 Comments

Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts... Does the government have to produce a live person or will a piece of paper do?

Melendez-Diaz stands for the proposition that admission of hearsay statements in the form of a lab analysis violates a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront the witness against him and question that witness.  This is important because in Melendez-Diaz, the state prosecutor attempted to admit a certificate of drug analysis to prove that the cocaine seized from Mr. Melendez Diaz during an arrest was in fact cocaine.  The prosecutor had no intention of calling the chemist as a witness even though he was the person who analyzed the cocaine.  Mr. Melendez-Diaz successfully argued that Crawford v. Washington, which stood for the proposition that the Confrontation Clause prohibits the use of hearsay statements in court in lieu of testimony (aside from some very narrow exceptions), applied in the case at hand.  The crux of the argument being that the certificate of analysis is a hearsay document and is inadmissible without live testimony that would provide foundation for its admission into evidence.

Objection!

Ultimately, the US Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Melendez-Diaz and overturned his conviction, remanding it back to the state court for further proceedings, consistent with its opinion.

A Bully good job SCOTUS (Supreme Court of The United States)!!!!

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Even better, when the case was remanded to the state court in Suffolk, Massachusetts, a jury acquitted Mr. Melendez-Diaz of the cocaine charge.  Bully good job jurors!!!!

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Now, you maybe asking what does this mean to me?  Well, it has had wide reaching implications across the country as well as the state of Maine.  In Maine, the state prosecutor must bring the chemist in to testify about a blood test result in an OUI or a chemical analysis in a drug case.  The certificate of analysis alone will not do.  Bully good job Maine Law Court!

However, the Law Court has ruled that in cases involving other driving charges, such as Operating after Suspension, a certified copy of the defendant's driving records, commonly referred to as a "blue seal document", will suffice and the DA does NOT need to produce a live witness to testify as to its contents.

That is a puzzling and maddening decision because the Law Court specifically stated that the contents of the blue seal document are NOT testimonial as they weren't created for the purposes of litigation and are more akin to business records.That means if you've been charged with Operating after Suspension, the state merely has to introduce the blue seal document showing that you were under suspension at the time of operation and that notice of the suspension was sent to your last known address.

Jeesh!  That's weak sauce Maine Law Court.  I don't think Teddy approves.

Teddy roosevelt displeased

If you're curious and want to read a summary of the Melendez-Diaz opinion, click on through... Wikipedia

About the Author

William Bly

William T. Bly, Esq. is a graduate of Rutgers College where he majored in Political Science with a minor in U.S. History. Attorney Bly attended and graduated the University of Maine School of Law. During his time in law school, Attorney Bly focused on criminal defense.

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