One of my interests in the many components of the criminal justice is the area of forensic science . There has been a common occurrence of problems in forensic crime labs across the country . One of the biggest cases was of Annie Dookhan who falsified thousands of drug reports . Ms. Dookhan was later indicted and plead guilty to her crimes.
Alabama has found a way to avoid any problems in the forensic laboratory . They don’t need no stinking test. Robert Siercks was convicted of possession of cocaine. The evidence at trial was that the rock type substance recovered by the police was cocaine . How did they prove it was cocaine ? The officer testified based on his experience and the field test that the substance was cocaine. The officer preserved a piece of the substance but no forensic testing was performed . A jury convicted Mr. Siercks and his appeal to the Alabama Court of appeals was denied. Mr. Siercks was sentenced to 15 years .
The prosecutor had this to say ;
"There is no constitutional requirement that the prosecuting authority provide any particular ‘type’ of evidence in any case," Barnett said. "The only constitutional requirement is that the jury be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt as to the elements in a case."
Granted , there is no constitutional requirement of forensic testing in drug cases , but do we want to guess it is drugs before we send Mr.Siercks off to prison for 15 years. Based on Alabama’s reasoning, a police officer could look or sniff someone and testify someones blood alcohol level is over .08 % alcohol. If you have a crime lab use it. The sad thing is that Tennessee has upheld a conviction based on a field test. I am glad to report that is a rarity and most drugs are eventually tested by a forensic crime lab.
I agree that there is no requirement to scientifically prove something is an illegal drug . Maybe it is about time.