Confrontation Clause, Crawford v. Washington, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, Capital punishment, Death penalty
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right "to be confronted with the witnesses against him." Four years ago, in Crawford v. Washington, the United States Supreme Court held that this right bars the admission of testimonial hearsay statements against criminal defendants, regardless of whether or not the statements fall within an evidentiary hearsay exception. It was a decision that other courts later described as a "bombshell," a "renaissance," and "a newly shaped lens" through which to view the Confrontation Clause. The case generated an extensive amount of discussion among legal commentators.
Since its decision in Crawford, the Court has had to grapple regularly with questions that Crawford left unanswered. This term, the Court is poised to determine yet another unanswered Crawford question in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts: "[w]hether a state forensic analyst's laboratory report prepared for use in a criminal prosecution is 'testimonial' evidence subject to the demands of the Confrontation Clause as set forth in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004)."
The outcome in Melendez-Diaz will have a significant impact on America's criminal justice system in general. Moreover, the case could raise important implications in capital sentencing proceedings.
Parts I and II of this comment provide a brief overview of Crawford and its progeny. Part III discusses the issue raised in Melendez-Diaz and its potential impact. Part IV explains how Melendez-Diaz could affect capital sentencing and uses the case of State v. Owens as an example.
Blume, John H. and Paavola, Emily C., "Crime Labs and Prison Guards: a Comment on Melendez-Diaz and its Potential Impact on Capital Sentencing Proceedings" (2009). Cornell Law Faculty Publications. 6.
Charleston Law Review, vol. 3, no. 2 (Winter 2009).