Arguing that the right of defendants to challenge forensic evidence is critical to prevent wrongful convictions, the Innocence Network filed a brief yesterday in a U.S. Supreme Court case to be heard later this year. In the case, Luis Melendez-Diaz is challenging his 2002 drug-related conviction in Massachusetts, arguing that he was denied the right to cross-examine a state analyst who prepared a report on forensic testing in the case. The Supreme Court has ruled that trial evidence is not admissible unless the defendant can cross-examine the witness. The Massachusetts high court said this doesn’t apply to a forensic expert’s lab report.
In its friend-of-the-court brief, the Innocence Network (an association of nonprofit legal clinics and criminal justice resource centers of which the Innocence Project is a founding member) argues that the Massachusetts Court’s position assumes that lab reports are fact and not subject to interpretation, saying this “rests entirely on a myth of infallibility – a myth that finds no basis in the reality of state forensic practices throughout the country.”