Thursday, August 23, 2007

Raw Data from Computer Tests Not "Statements" Subject to Confrontation

US v. Washington: Washington was pulled over on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (over which the Government has jurisdiction) and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs and reckless driving. At trial, the Government presented expert testimony from the head of a local toxicology laboratory that a blood sample taken from Washington that night showed he had consumed PCP and alcohol. Washington objected to that testimony, arguing that the raw data reports of the drug testing upon which the doc relied were testimonial hearsay statements of the technicians who actually performed the test and Washington was entitled to confront them. The court disagreed and Washington was convicted.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirms, 2-1. The court held that, to the extent that the raw data upon which the witness relied were "statements" at all, they were statements of the equipment and computer program that actually performed the testing, not the technicians who ran the tests. Because the equipment were not "persons," they could not produce "statements" within the meaning of the Rules of Evidence. Cross examination of the technicians would have been pointless, as they had no testimony to offer regard what the raw data actually meant. Dissenting, Judge Michael argued that the test results were statements of the technicians (because they were produced via human inputs), that they were testimonial, and that whether their cross examination would prove useful is a decision for the defendant, not the court, to make.

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