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Crawford, The Sixth Amendment Right to Confrontation and Testimonial Evidence: DNA Reports


Issue: whether defendants sixth amendment right to confrontation was violated by the introduction of a DNA report processed by a subcontractor laboratory to the office of the chief medical examiner through the testimony of a forensic biologist. The New York Court of Appeals held that the report was non-testimonial and that the admission did not constitute a Crawford violation.

At trial the People alleged that the complaining witness was assaulted and sodomized in 1993. She was taken to the hospital in a rape kit was prepared. Because of a backlog the office of the chief medical examiner was unable to perform DNA testing. The rape kit was sent to a private subcontracting laboratory and a DNA of report containing raw data, graphs and charts was produced.

In 2003 a cold hit linked the defendant”s DNA to the profile found in the rape kit. The defendant was charged with two counts of sodomy in the first degree, two counts of kidnapping in the second degree, and three counts of assault in the second degree. At trial a forensic biologist from the chief medical examiner”s office testified that she had made the comparison and determined at the profiles or a match.

The people moved to introduce the DNA report into evidence as a business record. Defense objected claiming the report was testimonial and would violate defendants sixth amendment right to confrontation.

The forensic biologist testified that the report consisted merely of raw data and contain no conclusions. She testified that she drew her own scientific conclusions from analyzing the data and the defendant”s DNA profile. According to the report and the defendant was convicted of first-degree sodomy and two counts of second-degree assault.

The Court of Appeals found that the report was not testimonial in nature and affirmed conviction.

The Court”s analysis:

The sixth amendment guarantees the right to be confronted with witnesses and bars admission of testimonial statements of a witness who did not appear a trial unless he was available to testify and the defendant had a prior opportunity for cross-examination. Only statements are testimonial implicate the sixth amendment right to confront witnesses. Davis v. Washington , 547 U.S. 813 (2004).
The court cited Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts , 557 U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 2527 (2009) Where it was held that certificates of analysis from a state laboratory concluding two essential elements of the charge crime without any testimony from the analysts who made the conclusions were violated the defendant”s sixth amendment right to confront witnesses. The certificates were sworn to by the analysts and were created for the sole purpose of being introduced in court during the prosecution of the case.

Also cited was an earlier Court of Appeals case People v. Meekins , 10 N.Y.3d 136 where it was held that the introduction of a DNA report from a private laboratory was not a Crawford violation. The reports were not testimonial because the technicians merely recorded neutral testing procedures and the graphical DNA results, standing alone, should no light on the guilt of the accused.

However, in Meekins companion case People v. Rawlins it was held that the introduction of fingerprint analysis was testimonial because it was prepared like police solely to be entered at trial and was therefore offered for a purely accusatory basis to establish defendants identity at trial.

The factors that may be relevant in considering whether a document is testimonial in the Crawford analysis are: (1) whether the agency that produced the record is independent of law enforcement; (2) whether it reflects objective facts at the time of their recording; (3) whether the report has been biased in favor of law enforcement; and (4) whether the report accuses the defendant by directly linking him to the crime. People v. Freycinet , 11 N.Y.3d 38 (2008).

In this case, the Court held that the report was not testimonial because it consisted merely of a machine generated graphs, charts and numerical data. There were no conclusions, interpretations or to comparisons in the report and there was no subjective analysis. Additionally, the court found that the office of the chief medical examiner and the private laboratory work independently from the District Attorney and Police Department and there was therefore no pro-law-enforcement bias. The court found that the forensic biologist”s testimony that she relied on the documents provided by the private laboratory as a matter of practice provided sufficient foundation for the introduction of the DNA report under the business records rule, CPLR 4518.