SCOTUS DUI Rejected Forensics Case Makes Strange High Court Bedfellows

Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor teamed up for a dissent Monday after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal over forensic witnesses in criminal trials.

Early on in the 4-page opinion, Gorsuch quotes precedent to laud cross-examination as possibly “the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”

“The Constitution promises every person accused of a crime the right to confront his accusers,” Gorsuch wrote.

“That promise was broken here,” the dissent continues. “To prove Vanessa Stuart was driving under the influence, the state of Alabama introduced in evidence the results of a blood-alcohol test conducted hours after her arrest. But the state refused to bring to the stand the analyst who performed the test. Instead, the state called a different analyst. Using the results of the test after her arrest and the rate at which alcohol is metabolized, this analyst sought to estimate for the jury Ms. Stuart’s blood-alcohol level hours earlier when she was driving. Through these steps, the state effectively denied Ms. Stuart the chance to confront the witness who supplied a foundational piece of evidence in her conviction. The engine of cross-examination was left unengaged, and the Sixth Amendment was violated.” (Emphasis in original.)