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U.S. Supreme Court To Hear N.M. Case

Publication Date: 
October 12, 2010
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
Scott Sandlin

Does a person accused of a crime have the right to question the author of a lab test in court — or does another analyst's testimony meet constitutional requirements?

That question underlies a 2005 driving while intoxicated case, Bullcoming v. New Mexico, that originated in San Juan County and is now destined for a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A reversal of decisions made in New Mexico could wreak havoc with the state's DWI prosecutions, according to the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office.


Jeffrey Fisher, co-director of the Supreme Court litigation clinic at Stanford Law School and the attorney who will argue for Bullcoming, said the assertions in a report must be tested during questioning of the person who created it, not a surrogate.

"It's no different than a witness saying, 'I heard shots ring out at 12 o'clock' because they looked at their clock. We're not asking to cross-examine the clock. We're asking to cross-examine the person who claims the clock said 12," he said.

The Bullcoming case is a significant one, he said, "in the sense that it is a foundational rule of criminal trials that a defendant has a right to cross examine the prosecution's witnesses."