In a significant new case on the Confrontation Clause, the Court said it would consider the constitutionality of prosecutors' offering a crime lab report as evidence in a criminal trial, instead of the live testimony of the expert who prepared the report. (Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 07-591). The case involves Luis E. Melendez-Diaz, charged with cocaine trafficking in the Dorchester section of Boston. At his trial, prosecutors offered crime lab reports about substances taken from one of the men arrested in the incident. The appeal says that 44 states and Washington, D.C., now permit courts to admit forensic chemists' reports to establish that seized substances are illegal drugs, even when the chemists themselves are not called to testify. The Supreme Court had previously passed up review of several other cases raising the Confrontation Clause issue regarding crime lab reports.
Due to Harcrow's posture -- ruling for the defense on the substantive issue but then denying relief under the harmless error doctrine -- neither party can get Harcrow up to the Supremes as a Melendez-Diaz trailer. But obviously whatever case law the Supremes make will supplant (possibly while ratifying) Harcrow's Crawford analysis.
Here's a link to the Melendez-Diaz cert petition, courtesy of SCOTUSblog. Here's the QP:
Whether 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).We discussed Harcrow here.