Criminal defendants can now question the validity of lab results in court, thanks to a recent ruling by the US Supreme Court.
In a 5-4 ruling, the court said that allowing prosecutors to submit forensic evidence without questioning by the defense is a violation of Sixth Amendment right to face one’s accuser, according to The New York Times.
The decision invalidates the theory of neutral scientific evidence.
“Dispensing with confrontation because testimony is obviously reliable is akin to dispensing with jury trial because a defendant is obviously guilty,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority.
The court heard the case Luis Melendez-Diaz of Boston, who was arrested for drug distribution & trafficking, along with two other men.
After their arrest, police found 19 plastic bags containing a white powder in the back seat of their vehicle. A lab report identified the powder as cocaine, which was entered into evidence used to convict Melendez-Diaz, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
The decision came in the wake of a wave of scandals at crime laboratories that included hundreds of tainted cases in Michigan, Texas and West Virginia.
Now, a defense attorney will be able to call the lab technician for cross-examination and potentially raise question to the legitimacy of the analysis.