Melendez-Diaz “Fix”

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Melendez-Diaz v. Massachussetts, as most readers of this blog know, is the United States Supreme Court’s latest pronouncement on the Confrontation Clause. Generally, it holds that forensic laboratory reports — like chemical analyses of drugs, DNA tests, and so on — are “testimonial” for Confrontation Clause purposes. That means a laboratory report generally may not be admitted unless the analyst who prepared the report testifies. (A prior post with the basics about the case is here, though several other posts have addressed different aspects of the decision.)

Most readers of this blog may not know that the General Assembly passed a “fix” for Melendez-Diaz this session — legislation that clarifies and standardizes the various stautes that provide for the admissibility of forensic laboratory reports without the presence of the analyst when a defendant has advance notice of the report and fails to object to its admission — thereby waiving his or her Confrontation Clause rights. Unlike some legislative responses to court decisions, this one isn’t intended as a de facto overruling of Melendez-Diaz — the General Assembly lacks the power to do that  — but it should reduce the uncertainty about how Melendez-Diaz applies in North Carolina.

Fortunately, you don’t need to slog through the Session Law to understand the “fix” — you can read Jessie Smith’s concise summary of it, here. But do it before October 1, because that’s when it comes into effect.

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