Lab Analysts Must Testify

Posted: July 3, 2009 in Uncategorized

The Supreme Court has ruled in a 5-4 decision that lab analysts must testify about their lab tests/reports and subject themselves to cross examination. If they fail to appear at trial then their lab reports cannot be used against the criminals criminal defendants. While I can appreciate the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses, I think this is asinine.

Lab analysts are already overworked, and now five Supreme Court Justices want to bog them down with even more work. What they’re expecting borders on the impossible. Justice Anthony Kennedy pointed out that Philadelphia’s 18 drug analysts will now be forced to testify in more than 69 trials each next year, and Cleveland’s six drug analysts will be forced to testify in more than 117 trials each. WTF?!? Like they don’t have enough to do with the lab work alone, now they’re supposed to attend all these trials? When the hell are they supposed to find the time for them? This is almost sure to lead to either 1) more criminals going free because the lab analysts can’t make it to the trials, or 2) a massive backlog in the lab because they can’t do the work they’re supposed to be doing in the lab because they’re stuck at trials.

It gets even crazier with the FBI. There are 500 employees that work in the lab in Quantico. They perform more than one million lab tests each year. Now, as Justice Kennedy wrote, “The court’s decision means that before any of those million tests reaches a jury, at least one of the laboratory’s analysts must board a plane, find his or her way to an unfamiliar courthouse and sit there waiting to read aloud notes made months ago.” That’s brilliant. Just brilliant. Seriously, those five idiots that voted in favor of this are either missing part of their brain or they just didn’t bother to think this through.

So aside from labs already being overworked there’s also the problem of money. This new requirement is going to obviously require more money being spent (the lab analysts have to get to court somehow), but with all of the budget cuts, how in the hell is that supposed to happen? And what will happen with old cases that are now being brought to trial where the lab analyst has died? Or moved away?

I think the most surprising thing of all regarding this decision was the way the votes went. The votes didn’t fall along typical party lines. The Justices voting in favor of this bullshit were Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Paul Stevens, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That’s two conservatives and three liberals. The Justices who didn’t have their heads up their asses were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, and Anthony Kennedy. That’s two conservatives, one liberal, and one fence sitter. I guess if there’s one good thing to come out of this ruling is that the conservatives and liberals learned to work together.


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