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Confrontation Clause DNA Cases



In trial, there may be a Confrontation Clause or hearsay challenge to the DNA test results under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004). Recently, in
US v. Williams, US Supreme Court, No. 10–8505, 6/18/2012, Williams SCt 2012.pdf the United States Supreme Court concluded that expert DNA testimony which included the DNA results of a different lab did not violate the Confrontation Clause. Out-of-court statements that are related by the expert solely for the purpose of explaining the assumptions on which that opinion rests are not offered for their truth and thus fall outside the scope of the Confrontation Clause.

Older cases addressing those issues are listed below:

  1. State v. Forte, North Carolina Supreme Court, No. 20A04, 5-5-06, the defendant's right of confrontation was not violated by the admission of state lab DNA reports prepared by an analyst who did not testify and was unavailable for cross-examination, because the reports were not testimonial statements that were inadmissible under Crawford. The reports were purely ministerial observations and were property admitted under the business records exception to the hearsay rule. Forte.PDF
  2. Roberts v. U.S., District of Columbia CA, No. 03-CF-853, 2-15-07, the defendant contended, for the first time on appeal, that his confrontation rights were violated when a DNA expert, who had not done the original analysis of the DNA, testified and the FBI scientists, who did the testing, did not testify. Applying the plain error standard of review, the court found that any limitation on the defendant’s ability to cross-examine those who analyzed the DNA evidence connecting him with the crime did not justify reversal. Roberts.PDF
  3. People v. Geier, Supreme Court of California, No. S050082, 7-2-07, the report of DNA test results was not “testimonial.” Thus, testimony about the report by an expert who did not perform the test was admissible without violating the Confrontation Clause. Geier.PDF See: People v. Graham, Court of Appeals of California, Second Appellate District, Division One, B204863, 8-27-09 Graham August 27 2009.pdf, People v. Gutierrez, Court of Appeals of California, Second Appellate District, Division One, B211622, 9-9-09 Gutierrez.pdf, People v. Benjamin, Court of Appeals of California, Second Appellate District, Division Six, B211183, 9-15-09 Benjamin.pdf
  4. State v. Crager, Supreme Court of Ohio, No. 2006-0294 & No. 2006-0298, 12-27-07, the court determined that the DNA reports fell under the business records exception to the hearsay rule. Admission of the DNA reports without the testimony of the analyst who ran the tests did not violate the defendant's confrontation rights because the reports were non-testimonial. Crager.PDF
  5. People v. Rawlins, Court of Appeals of New York, N.Y. Slip Op. 01420, 2-19-08, a DNA report from an independent private laboratory, containing results of DNA testing conducted on samples taken from a victim’s rape kit, was not testimonial, and thus could be admitted without violating the defendant's Confrontation Clause rights. Rawlins.PDF
  6. Campos v. State, Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston (14th Dist.) No. 14-07-00014-CR, 5-27-08, the court first found that the DNA report was non-testimonial for Confrontation Clause purposes and then concluded that the defendant had an opportunity to cross-examine the DNA expert who did testify regarding her opinions about the report. Campo.PDF
  7. Pendergrass v. Indiana, Court of Appeals of Indiana, No. 71A03-0712-CR-588, 7-8-08, the trial court properly admitted the State’s Exhibits concerning DNA analysis and the subsequent test results without the testimony of the laboratory technician who performed the actual testing. The defendant’s confrontational rights pursuant to the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution were not compromised when he was denied the opportunity to confront and cross-examine the laboratory technician who performed the DNA analysis. Pendergrass.PDF Affirmed in Pendergrass, v. State, Indiana Supreme Court, No. 71S03–0808–CR–00445, 9-24-09. Pendergrass2.pdf
  8. People v. Michael Brown, Supreme Court, Queens County, New York, 7-14-08, the DNA lab technicians' notes and records were not testimonial, and thus their admission as business records, without the technicians' testimony, did not violate the Confrontation Clause. Brown.PDF, Order affirmed, NY Court of Appeals, No. 152,11/19/09 Brown CA.PDF
  9. US v. Richardson, United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, No. 07-2162, 8-12-08, allowing expert testimony from a scientist other than the one who performed the DNA tests, was not a violation of the Confrontation Clause or the Federal Rules of Evidence. Richardson.PDF
  10. People v. Williams, Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, Third Division, No. 01 CR 10786, 8-27-08, the report on DNA test results was not offered for the truth of the matter asserted; rather, it was offered to provide a basis for the DNA expert’s opinion, so admission of the report was not a violation of the Confrontation Clause. Williams.PDF upheld as to the DNA issue Williams SCt.pdf the US Supreme Court reversed the Illinois Supreme Court Williams SCt 2012.pdf
  11. People v. Johnson, Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, First Division, No. 1-07-0715, 3-30-09, the DNA report was not offered to prove the truth of the DNA lab’s findings but instead an expert who did not run the test properly testified regarding the report to provide a basis for the expert’s own opinion. Because the report was not offered to prove the truth of lab's findings, the Confrontation Clause was not violated. Johnson.pdf
  12. Hamilton v. State, Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio, No. 4-08-00206-CR, 8-31-09, the testimony and opinion of a DNA expert which is based on data generated by scientific instruments operated by other scientists, did not violate the Confrontation Clause. Hamilton.pdf
  13. Smith v. State, Supreme Court of Florida, No. SC06-747. 12-17-09, even though the FBI team supervisor did not actually perform the DNA testing, her testimony regarding the DNA results did not implicate the Confrontation Clause because she, as supervisor, formulated her own conclusions from the raw data produced by the biologists under her supervision and she was subject to cross-examination regarding the conclusions. Smith.pdf
  14. State v. Appleby, Supreme Court of Kansas, No. 98,017, 11/20/09, population frequency data relating to specific DNA profiles and the statistical programs used to make that data meaningful were nontestimonial, for purposes of Confrontation Clause analysis. Appleby.pdf
  15. State v. Lui, Court of Appeals of Washington, Division One, No. 61804-1-I, 11/23/09, though her opinions were based partially on forensic work performed by others, the DNA expert’s opinions and conclusions were independently derived from her expertise and analysis that they applied to the forensic work of others. She did not base her opinions solely on testimonial hearsay and merely recount what others who performed forensic work said and the defendant had a full opportunity to test the basis and reliability of the expert’s opinions and conclusions on cross-examination. Under these circumstances, the court found no violation of the defendant’s confrontation rights. Lui.pdf
  16. People v. Holmes, California Court of Appeals, Division 6, 2d Crim. No. B222971, 12/24/12 - a DNA experts' reliance on notes, DNA profiles, tables of results, typed summary sheets, and laboratory reports prepared by other DNA analysts did not violate the defendant’s confrontation rights because although the documents were prepared for possible use at a criminal prosecution none of these documents were an affidavit or other formalized testimonial material. Holmes.pdf