News 01.11.10

Supreme Court Revisits Right to Confront Forensic Witnesses

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this morning in a case that could affect last term’s decision granting criminal defendants the right to call forensic analysts as witnesses.

The court ruled 5-4 last term in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts that defendants in criminal cases have a right to cross-examine experts who conduct forensic tests in their case. This morning, the justices heard another forensics case, Briscoe et. al. v. Virginia, that some observers said could lead to a narrowing of the Melendez-Diaz ruling.

The Innocence Network filed a friend-of-the-court brief last year in Melendez-Diaz, pointing out that flawed forensic testimony has led to dozens of wrongful convictions later overturned through DNA testing – and arguing that the right to challenge forensic evidence is crucial to uncovering bad science that could wrongfully convict an innocent defendant.

An editorial in today’s New York Times said any change to last year’s ruling would be “a significant setback for civil liberties.”



Read the full editorial here

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Read more about Briscoe et. al. v. Virginia here

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Read more about Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts and download the Innocence Network brief

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