On Monday January 11,2010, The United States Supreme Court hears arguments in Briscoe v. Virginia. The Court takes up the issue of confrontation rights of a defendant less than seven months after the Court further expanded the defendant’s rights under the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. Lyle Denniston of The SCOTUS Blog reported that prosecutors claim the Melendez-Diaz ruling has caused a severe disruption in the criminal justice system especially in prosecuting illegal drugs and drunk driving cases.It appears the Court is poised to reverse Melendez-Diaz.
Melendez-Diaz held that a defendant’s right guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause required the government to allow the defendant to face his accusers.The case further held that forensic reports from crime labs could not be used at trial unless the lab technician or forensic scientist who prepared the report was available for trial.
Melendez-Diaz changed the procedure for the admissibility of breath tests in Tennessee. Under Tennessee case law , a breath alcohol test machine has to be certified every ninety days for the breath test result to be admissible in a DUI trial..Now, a technician has to come to court to testify rather than rely on a piece of paper.Mr.Denniston predicts a change in the Court’s prior holding based upon the new composition of the Court.If the Court reverses their position on the Confrontation Clause , it could have dire effects on the citizen accused. I am wondering if any of the Justices are going to change their mind or will Justice Sotomayor be the key.