Supreme Court Finds Prosecutors Violated Drug Defendant’s Rights by Switching Expert Witnesses

Supreme Court Finds Prosecutors Violated Drug Defendant’s Rights by Switching Expert Witnesses
The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on June 21, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

The Supreme Court ruled on June 21 that prosecutors infringed an Arizona drug defendant’s constitutional right to confront witnesses against him by using the testimony of a substitute expert witness who didn’t actually conduct the drug tests that another expert performed.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the Court’s new opinion in Smith v. Arizona.

Although all nine justices agreed with the Court’s judgment in the case, not all of the justices agreed with the reasoning in the opinion.

The case concerns Jason Smith who entered not guilty pleas to five drug offenses in Yuma County, Arizona. The state sent the drug evidence to a state-run crime laboratory, but the expert witness who testified against him at trial was different from the expert who performed the tests on the drugs. He challenged the substitution of the witness but was still convicted.

Mr. Smith argued that this switching of expert witnesses violated his Sixth Amendment constitutional right to confront his accuser.

Mr. Smith was present at his father’s residence when police showed up and searched the premises. Officers discovered what they believed were methamphetamine, marijuana, cannabis wax, and assorted drug paraphernalia in a shed on the property.

The forensic analyst who tested the evidence, Elizabeth Rast, left her job before the trial. The state presented another analyst at trial, Greg Longoni, who testified about crime lab standards and protocols and read from Ms. Rast’s notes about the analysis. Mr. Longoni did not perform any tests on the material seized by police.

At the oral argument on Jan. 10, the justices seemed to agree that Mr. Longoni’s testimony violated Mr. Smith’s Sixth Amendment rights but had differing views about how to rule in the case. The justices spent much of the hearing discussing the notes that Ms. Rast made.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

From The Epoch Times