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Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts


The government tried the defendant for distributing a controlled substance. At trial, the government placed into evidence bags seized during the arrest, and three “certificates of analysis” demonstrating the results of a forensic analysis performed on the contents. The certificates, sworn to before a notary public, described the weight and stated that the bags contained a substance found to be cocaine. These certificates were by analysts at the government laboratory.


Whether the certificates were “testimonial” evidence, requiring the analysts to testify subject to cross examination?


Yes. These notarized certificates are affidavits, which were created by the government to establish a fact at trial, are testimonial in nature and are subject to the Confrontation Clause.


The Court relied on its decision in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004) in affirming that the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause, at a minimum, “guarantees a defendant’s right to confront those “who ‘bear testimony’ against him.” The Court found that “[T]here is little doubt that the documents at issue in this case fall within the ‘core class of testimonial statements’…” As affidavits, such as these here, that are created to establish evidence in a criminal proceeding are “testimonial,” their submission alone, absent some other rule or standard of law, fails to meet the Sixth Amendment standard. The Sixth Amendment “commands, not that evidence be reliable, but that reliability be assessed in a particular manner: by testing in the crucible of cross-examination… (citing Crawford).”


557 U.S. 305, 129 S. Ct. 2527 (2009)

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