In the recent case of Commonwealth v. Jorge Vasquez, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently overturned the conviction of the defendant, who had been tried and convicted of Possession of Cocaine, as well as Distribution of Cocaine. Despite his criminal defense lawyer’s failing to object at trial to the admission of the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory Certificates of Drug Analysis, the Supreme Judicial Court still reversed his convictions as a result of his being deprive of his Right to Confrontation under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
At his criminal trial, the prosecutor did not call the Massachusetts State Police Crime Analyst at trial, but simply admitted the ‘Drug Certificates’. The Drug Certificates were signed by the analyst, but the court found a Sixth Amendment violation because the defendant had no opportunity to cross-examine the drug analyst. Although this was the preferred practice not too long ago, in the recent case of Melendez-Diaz, the United States Supreme Court ruled that drug certificates are testimonial in nature whose admission into evidence against a criminal defendant triggers the protections of the Sixth Amendment Right to Confrontation.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court further ruled that, without the admission of the Drug Certificates or testimony certifying the seized substances were, in fact, cocaine, the defendant’s convictions on the charges could not stand and must be reversed. Although there was evidence that the ‘substances’ were “consistent with cocaine” and testimony from police officers relating to the likeness of the substances with cocaine, this was simply circumstantial evidence. Although a conviction can stand on only circumstantial evidence, the convictions in this case had to be reversed because the court could not say whether a jury would still have convicted had the improperly introduced Drug Certificates not been introduced.
Notably, that the defendant’s criminal defense attorney did not object at trial to the admission of the Drug Certificate was not held against him during at his appeal of his convictions. The Supreme Court explained that, because an objection to the admission of the Drug Certificate would have been futile, the rationale for denying the defendant review on this issue doesn’t apply.
Boston Criminal Defense Attorney Lefteris K. Travayiakis:
Whether you are charged with a Drug Crime, a simple misdemeanor or a serious felony crime, it is important that the criminal defense lawyer you choose to represent you is experienced and knowledgeable on the rapidly developing changes in the law. Like anything in life, half the battle is understanding the issues and having the knowledge and expertise to attack the weaknesses.
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