Confrontation's Multi-Analyst Problem
Texas A&M Law Review, Vol. 9, p. 165, 2021
43 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2021 Last revised: 22 Nov 2021
Date Written: March 25, 2021
The Confrontation Clause in the Sixth Amendment affords the “accused” in “criminal prosecutions” the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against” them. A particular challenge for courts over at least the last decade-plus has been the degree to which the Confrontation Clause applies to forensic reports, such as those presenting the results of a DNA, toxicology, or other CSI-type analysis. Should use of forensic reports entitle criminal defendants to confront purportedly “objective” analysts from the lab producing the report? If so, which analyst or analysts? For forensic processes that require multiple analysts, should the prosecution be required to produce each and every analyst involved in handling the sample, participating in the testing process, or making any type of even minor representation contained in the report? Although the Supreme Court has had several occasions to opine on the application of the Confrontation Clause to forensic reports, and although such precedent suggests criminal defendants enjoy at least some right to confront a forensic analyst, a great deal of uncertainty persists as to which analyst or analysts must be produced in cases involving multiple analysts. A certiorari petition considered by the Supreme Court in March 2021—Chavis v. Delaware—could have permitted the Court to address this multi-analyst problem. Even though the Court determined Chavis was not the appropriate vehicle for resolving the multi-analyst problem, this is an extremely important issue for labs, local stakeholders, and lower courts, and Justice Gorsuch even dissented from the Court’s denial of certiorari. The purpose of this Article is to identify and discuss six plausible approaches the Supreme Court could consider in resolving the multi-analyst problem.
Keywords: Confrontation Clause, criminal procedure, evidence, CSI, DNA, forensic analysis, forensic reports, Sixth Amendment, constitutional, Supreme Court
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