Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Admission of lab report: People v. Bowman

In this case, the California Court of Appeal held that the case Melendez-Diaz did not alter the California rule that an in-court witness may rely on laboratory notes and reports, even if prepared by a different individual, to support the witness's expert opinion.
Melendez-Diaz held that the admission of a written document to establish laboratory results violates the Sixth Amendment. (Melendez-Diaz, supra, 557 U.S. at p. ___ [129 S.Ct. at p. 2532].
However, the California Court of Appeal concluded that the scenario in Bowman - where a criminalist other than the one who did the testing - gave expert testimony on the chemical testing of the suspected methamphetamine -- does not violate a defendant's confrontation rights.

The case is: People v. Bowman, 10 CDOS 3656 (CA 5th).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ninth Circuit: Unreasonable Delay in Execution of Search Warrant

In United States v. Song Ja Cha, the Ninth Circuit held that a 26-hour seizure of a home before a search warrant was executed was unreasonable. As a result, the suppression of evidence was warranted.

The case is: United States v. Song Ja Cha, __ F.3d __, 2010 WL 775238 (9th Cir. Mar. 9, 2010)

Monday, March 8, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Eases Rules for Miranda Warning

Last week, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Maryland v. Shatzer. Justice Scalia wrote the opinion, which six other Justices joined in full. Justice Thomas concurred in part and concurred in the judgment; Justice Stevens concurred in the judgment. The Court held that a fourteen-day break in custodial interrogation ends the Edwards v. Arizona rule which states that once a suspect invokes his Miranda rights, any subsequent waiver of the right triggered by a police request is deemed involuntary and is the result of coercion. In reversing the decision of the Maryland Court of Appeals, the Court concluded that Shatzer’s return to his normal pre-interrogation life in the general prison population for a period of two-and-one-half years before re-interrogation constituted a sufficient break in custody enable him to voluntarily waive his Miranda rights. Therefore, the Edwards case did not require that Shatzer’s re-interrogation statements be suppressed, and the Court remanded the case for further proceedings.

The Court reasoned that a suspect who has been released for at least two weeks following the custodial interrogation in which he initially asserted a right to counsel will have had sufficient time to re-acclimate to his normal life, consult with counsel, family, and/or friends, and rebound from any lingering coercive effects of the prior custody. In adopting a bright-line fourteen-day rule, the Court noted the need for a clear and certain rule for law enforcement officers. In his concurring opinion, Justice Thomas disagreed with the Court’s creation of a fourteen-day rule, which he characterizes as arbitrary.

The Court next turned to the question of whether Shatzer’s return to the general prison population – where he was serving an unrelated sentence – constitutes a “break in custody” for Miranda purposes. The Court – in a part of the opinion joined by seven Justices, including Justice Thomas – held that it did. The Court reasoned that the release of a suspect who has been previously incarcerated back into the general prison population is a release to the suspect’s “accustomed surroundings and daily routine,” in which the suspect regains the same control over his life as he possessed prior to the interrogation.

The case is: Maryland v. Shatzer, No. 08-680.