New Jersey v. Michaels

Defendant Julie Michaels was charged with second-degree vehicular homicide, third-degree assault by auto, and four other related charges, as well as motor vehicle citations, including driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, possession of a controlled dangerous substance in a motor vehicle, and possession of an open container of alcohol. Laboratory results of gas chromatography/mass spectrometry tests performed on defendant's blood sample, which was drawn at a hospital the evening of her motor vehicle accident, revealed the presence of cocaine, alprazolam, and benzoethylene (a cocaine metabolite). At trial, the State introduced testimony from Edward Barbieri, Ph.D., an assistant supervisor and toxicology technical leader from the private laboratory that had performed the testing on defendant's blood sample and issued a report certifying the test results. Dr. Barbieri was responsible for supervising the technicians and analysts who were involved in the gas chromatography/mass spectrometry testing. Over defendant's objection, the report was admitted into evidence without the testimony of the fourteen individuals who had performed various tasks associated with the testing procedures. A jury convicted defendant on all counts, and the Appellate Division affirmed defendant's conviction. Defendant argued on appeal to the Supreme Court that her Sixth Amendment confrontation rights were violated because the laboratory report was admitted, although defendant had not had the opportunity to confront each laboratory employee who participated in the testing that generated the results contained in the report. The Supreme Court concluded after review that the admission of the laboratory report did not violate defendant's confrontation rights. The laboratory supervisor (who testified and was available for cross-examination) was knowledgeable about the testing process that he was responsible for supervising. "We recognize that the forensic report in issue is 'testimonial' and that it is the type of document subject to the Confrontation Clause. [. . .] However, in this matter we join the many courts that have concluded that a defendant's confrontation rights are not violated if a forensic report is admitted at trial and only the supervisor/reviewer testifies and is available for cross-examination, when the supervisor is knowledgeable about the testing process, reviews scientific testing data produced, concludes that the data indicates the presence of drugs, and prepares, certifies, and signs a report setting forth the results of the testing." View "New Jersey v. Michaels" on Justia Law