It’s no secret that the best part of being from the United States is enjoying the rights and freedoms that our Constitution awards us. Throughout its long history, the U .S. Constitution has been amended many times. Some of these amendments relate to criminal law.
Therefore, it’s understandable why top criminal attorneys nationwide are particularly protective of the Sixth Amendment. Setting forth rights in criminal prosecutions, the Sixth Amendment protects defendants during the legal process. Under this amendment, defendants of criminal charges are entitled to:
- A speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of peers.
- Be informed of the charges against him or her, as well as the cause of the accusation.
- Confront accusers and present favoring witnesses to the court.
- Obtain defense lawyers, even if it is a court appointed attorney because he or she does not have enough money to hire a lawyer.
Court ruled laboratory reports could not be admitted into evidence
In the past, prosecutors were allowed to use written laboratory statements as a replacement for testimony from a live person from the laboratory to verify the lab’s results. However, throughout the 1990’s, several criminal cases were appealed due to the mishandling of evidence by medical examiners or laboratory technicians who never had to answer to their actions in a court of law. The appellate attorneys argued that had a cross-examination of these erring medical examiners or lab techs taken place, then the outcome would have likely been much different in those cases. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laboratory reports could not be admitted into evidence without a “live witness competent to testify to the truth of statements made.”
Just last week however, the Supreme Court took that Constitutional guarantee a step further. In the court’s written opinion in the drunk driving case against Donald Bullcoming, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority that the defendant is entitled to cross-examine the exact lab analyst that performed and reported the main evidence in the trial. Ginsberg stated it must be guaranteed that the testifying witness “received Bullcoming’s blood sample intact with the seal unbroken, that he checked to make sure that the forensic report number and the sample number corresponded and that he performed on Bullcoming’s sample a particular test, adhering to a precise protocol.”
This recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling widened a criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights by guaranteeing the ability to confront the exact person who was instrumental in their criminal charge. One does not need to be a top criminal lawyer to applaud this decision, as taking these extra precautions are essential to ensuring that innocent Americans are not wrongfully convicted. It is unfortunate that focus is often diverted from this right in an effort to make prosecutions more “cost-effective.” Eliminating the rush will provide a fair trial for all, making sure that the jury makes the correct decision, not a hasty one.