Clinic Victory in Court Secures Confrontation Rights in Prosecution

On June 23, 2011, the Court ruled in favor of the clinic’s client in Bullcoming v. New Mexico, holding that the prosecution violates the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause when it introduces one person’s forensic lab report through the in-court testimony of a different analyst. The opinion can be found here.

Two years ago, the clinic won an important victory by a five-to-four vote in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, in which the Court held that the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause prohibits the prosecution in a criminal case from introducing a forensic laboratory report without putting a live witness from the lab on the stand. Yesterday, the clinic solidified and extended that victory.

Acting again by a five-to-four margin, the Court ruled in favor of the clinic’s client, Donald Bullcoming, holding that the Confrontation Clause requires the prosecution to produce not just any witness from a lab, but a particular witness: the person who performed the test and wrote the report at issue. The Court thus reversed Mr. Bullcoming’s conviction because the State had put the lab supervisor on the stand instead of the actual analyst who conducted the test at issue.

Five recent graduates worked on the clinic’s briefs in the case and helped prepare for oral argument: Jud Campbell, Jacqueline de Armas, Kyle Maurer, Josh Patashnik, and Masha Hansford. Professor Jeff Fisher led the team and was assisted by clinic co-director Professor Pam Karlan, as well as the Washington, DC based firm of Goldstein, Howe & Russell.

See coverage on SCOTUSBlog here and here (opinion), and on The New York Times.