This page contains Supreme Court rulings -- with summaries of the majority and minority conclusions.
Decided Jun 23, 2011
Case Ruling: BULLCOMING v. NEW MEXICO
Bullcoming was arrested for drunk driving. A blood sample seized by police was given to a state laboratory for testing of its blood alcohol content (BAC). A state chemist performed the test and completed a portion of a document intended for use in a criminal trial. At trial this chemist was not present--was, in fact, on an unexplained unpaid leave--but another chemist appeared to describe the lab's process and read the results from the form over defense counsel's objection.
HELD: Delivered by Ginsburg; joined by Scalia, Sotomayor, Kagan & ThomasThe Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause confers on the accused in criminal cases "the right … to be confronted with the witnesses against him." The testing chemist was not a mere scrivener of results, but performed the test and recorded significant facts about its integrity and accuracy. The substituted chemist had no personal knowledge of the blood test at all, or information as to whether the testing chemist was on
unpaid leave owing to a failure in his duties. The Sixth Amendment provides a particular guarantee. Courts are not invited to look behind the text for the purpose, and from there to craft something "fair." Further, the report of BAC analysis was "testimonial." It was prepared as part of a duty imposed by law on state chemists to assist with police investigations, and included formalities intended for its introduction as evidence in a criminal case.
CONCURRED: Sotomayor concurs in partThis holding does not control non-testimonial documents, testimony by a person with some personal knowledge of a test, an expert witness, or introduction of machine-generated results.
DISSENT: Kennedy dissents; joined by Roberts, Breyer, and AlitoThe Confrontation Clause is intended to ensure a fair trial with reliable evidence, not that every person who conducts routine evidence testing appear in court for the prosecution.
Participating counts on VoteMatch question 9.
Question 9: Stricter punishment reduces crime
Scores: -2=Strongly oppose; -1=Oppose; 0=neutral; 1=Support; 2=Strongly support.
- Topic: Crime
- Headline: Scientific testing requires live testimony in criminal cases
- Headline 2: Some documents may be allowed without testimony
- Headline 3: Live witness not required for all scientific testing
- Key for participation codes:
- Sponsorships: p=sponsored; o=co-sponsored; s=signed
- Memberships: c=chair; m=member; e=endorsed; f=profiled; s=scored
- Resolutions: i=introduced; w=wrote; a=adopted
- Cases: w=wrote; j=joined; d=dissented; c=concurred
- Surveys: '+' supports; '-' opposes.
participating in 11-BULL-NM
Total recorded by OnTheIssues: