Friday, March 19, 2010

Recent Decisions Impacted by Melendez-Diaz

In Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts (129 S. Ct. 2527) the Supreme Court found the introduction of state forensic-lab reports is testimonial evidence requiring the appearance at trial of lab technicians.
Some subsequent decisions:

Commonwealth v. Martinez-Guzman, 76 Mass. App. Ct. 167 Defendant argued that his RMV record was submitted and he did not have a chance to cross examine the employee who signed the RMV record. The Appeals Court found RMV records are maintained independently of any prosecutorial purpose and are therefore admissible in evidence as ordinary business records.

Commonwealth v. Madera, 76 Mass. App. Ct. 154 The Appeals Court affirmed the decision. Madera claimed under Melendez-Diaz that his right to confront the drug analyst was violated. The Appeals Court agreed but decided that the evidence was overwhelming against the defendant. Importantly, the prosecution did not make the reports central to its case and Appeals Court noted they made no mention of the certificates in their closing arguments. Therefore the denial under Melendez-Diaz was not strong enough to overturn the decision.

Commonwealth v. Perez, 76 Mass. App. Ct. 439 (2010) Defendant was convicted of drug trafficking. The judgment was reversed following Melendez-Diaz. Drug certificates were introduced, despite defense objection, and the defendant was not able to cross examine the drug analyst.

Commonwealth v. Rivera, 76 Mass. App. Ct. 304 Ballistic certificates were entered into evidence despite objections by defense. The defendant was found guilty. Appeals Court reversed the decision based on the violation of the defendant’s right to confrontation provided by Melendez-Diaz.