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Supreme Court Continues to Expand the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause: Bullcoming v. New Mexico

NCJ Number
Charlene Whitman, J.D.; Viktoria Kristiansson, J.D.
Date Published
December 2011
3 pages
This paper interprets the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in "Bullcoming v. New Mexico," 131 S.Ct. 2705 (2011), which held that the confrontation clause prohibits the prosecution from introducing a forensic laboratory report through the testimony of an analyst who did not sign the certification or personally perform or observe the testing.
This case is similar to the Court's holding in "Melendez-Diaz" and clarifies that live testimony regarding a laboratory analysis certification cannot satisfy an accused's confrontation rights unless the witness has personal knowledge of the facts contained in the certification. In "Bullcoming" the Supreme Court continues to expand the rights of defendants under the confrontation clause regarding required live testimony. This expansion began with "Crawford" with the identification of "testimonial" evidence, and has continued with the clause's strict application in "Melendez-Diaz." In his dissent, Justice Kennedy points out some implications of a strict interpretation of the confrontation clause, such as the introduction of a victim's out-of-court statements when that victim is unavailable. Further, Justice Kennedy indicated that the majority opinion in "Bullcoming" would exacerbate an already existing logistical nightmare for scientific and forensic laboratories. The dissent also stated that the rule in the holding was not clear as to whose live testimony would be sufficient to introduce reliable evidence without violating the confrontation clause. The facts of the "Bullcoming" DUI case presented to the Court are included in this paper. 9 notes