On June 25, 2009 the US Supreme Court released an opinion which strengthens our Sixth Amendment rights. The Sixth Amendment states that the accused have a right to confront witnesses brought against them. Building on Crawford v. Washington, the Court in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts held that forensic lab analysts who perform tests on suspected drugs must testify in person to allow for cross-examination. Prior to this decision, some states wouldn’t allow lab analysts to testify in court and simply used a signed, notarized copy of their reports to be submitted into evidence without undergoing cross-examination.
This decision is of great importance because it ensures that the accused are able to confront all witnesses brought against them. The Court recognized the value of distilling the truth in the crucible of cross-examination. Further, the ruling gives defense attorneys greater procedural leverage in plea negotiations. Defense attorneys have a new tool to use when representing their clients.