Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fourth Circuit holds that data from diagnotic machine is not a statement under Crawford v. Washington

In UNITED STATES v. WASHINGTON, at trial, the government offered, over Washington’s objection, the expert testimony of Dr. Barry Levine to prove that a blood sample taken from Washington the night of his arrest contained PCP and alcohol. Washington’s argued that the raw data generated by the forensic lab’s diagnostic machines and relied on by Dr. Levine to give his testimony amounted to testimonial hearsay statements of the lab technicians who operated the machines. As a result, Washington argued that Dr. Levine’s testimony was not admissible,as Washington had a right to confront the technicians and cross examine them by reason of the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause.

The Fourth Circuit rejected this argument:

In the case before us, the "statements" in question are alleged to be the assertions that Washington’s blood sample contained PCP and alcohol. But those statements were never made by the technicians who tested the blood. The most the technicians could have said was that the printed data from their chromatograph machines showed thatthe blood contained PCP and alcohol. The machine printout is the only source of the statement, and no person viewed a blood sample and concluded that it contained PCP and alcohol. Yet, the very samedata that would have permitted the lab technicians to say that the blood contained PCP and alcohol were also seen and interpreted byDr. Levine. Moreover, those data were the only basis upon which Dr.Levine stated in court that the blood sample contained PCP and alcohol.In short, the inculpating "statement" — that Washington’s blood sample contained PCP and alcohol — was made by the machine on printed sheets, which were given to Dr. Levine. The technicians could neither have affirmed or denied independently that the blood contained PCP and alcohol because all the technicians could do was to refer to the raw data printed out by the machine. Thus, the statements to which Dr. Levine testified in court — the blood sample contained PCP and alcohol — did not come from the out-of-court technicians,and so there was no violation of the Confrontation Clause.

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