A defendant who was convicted for the gun crimes of Carrying a Firearm Without a License and Carrying a Loaded Firearm recently had his convictions overturned because the admission of the Ballistics Certificate, without live expert testimony, violated his Right to Confrontation under the 6th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
At his criminal jury trial in the District Court, the prosecutor sought to prove that the gun at issue was an operable firearm with evidence consisting only of the Ballistics Certificate, which is simply a police ballistician's certification that the firearm has been examined, tested and found to be functional. The ballistician who examined the firearm was not called as a witness by the prosecutor at trial, and therefore was not available to the defendant's criminal defense lawyer for cross-examination. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that, because the ballistician was not made available to the defense for cross-examination of his findings, the defendant's constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him was violated. Read the full Massachusetts Supreme Court's opinion in Commonwealth v. William Rivera.
The reversal of the defendants gun convictions follows the recent ruling in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, where the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the prosecution cannot prove its case with affidavits and without the benefit of live witness testimony. The case of Melendez-Diaz involved a drug trial where the prosecutor admitted a Certificate of Drug Analysis in lieu of the chemist's testimony that the contraband seized by the police was, in fact, cocaine.