There is some concern that a recent US Supreme Court decision concerning the admission of forensic evidence could effect a high profile murder conviction in Marion County Ohio. The Marion Star reports about prosecutors concerns about the case being appealed.In Melendez-Diaz, the US Supreme Court determined that documentary evidence from state forensics labs must be supported by expert witness testimony, and not just certified documentary evidence. The court concluded, in a 5-4 decision, that allowing a document alone as evidence violates a defendants right to “confront one’s accusers”, and therefore is inadmissible on it’s own.
The decision has sent prosecutors across the country scrambling to provide expert forensic witnesses in prosecuting cases that relay on forensic evidence, most commonly drug charges and drunk driving. The impact on typical Ohio drug cases is still in question, but prosecutors are concerned about a significant impact on analysts at Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
The Marion case is slightly different. There was a lot of critical DNA evidence used in this case, but there was an expert state witness testifying on the value and methods used in gathering this evidence. The difference that has prosecutors concerned in light of Melendez-Diaz is that the expert who testified was not the one who did the analysis of the evidence in this case. A substitute analyst was used since the person who tested the defendant’s DNA was on maternity leave at the time of the trial.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on a case in 2007., and concluded that another expert was allowed to testify about another expert’s lab results. The courts are reviewing the Marion case in to determine whether it violates Melendez-Diaz.