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Court Weighs Nature Of Lab Evidence

Publication Date: 
November 11, 2008
USA Today
Joan Biskupic

Professor Jeffrey L. Fisher is quoted in a USA Today article about the Supreme Court case Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts:

The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case that could have great impact because of prosecutors' widespread reliance on forensic evidence. The justices appeared open to ruling that lab workers must be available for cross-examination when states introduce drug, blood or other forensic reports at trial.


"Introducing forensic laboratory reports (without live witnesses) is the modern equivalent of trial by affidavit," said Stanford University law professor Jeffrey Fisher, representing Luis Melendez-Diaz, who was convicted of cocaine trafficking. Fisher challenged a Massachusetts policy, similar to others nationwide, that allows forensic analysts to submit certificates — here, a report on the authenticity and quantity of cocaine seized — without testifying.


Fisher said the prosecution should bear the burden of putting on witnesses for its assertion of the facts. "We would vigorously oppose any attempt to shift the burden on the defense to call witnesses like that," Fisher said.