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- Donahue Lecture Series
In a widely fractured decision, the Supreme Court held that a defendant’s constitutional right to confrontation was not violated when an expert provided testimony concerning a DNA profile linking the defendant to his accused crime. In Williams v. Illinois, the Court articulated three different reasons as to why the expert testimony, in the absence of testimony from the primary analyst, did not violate the Confrontation Clause. The plurality decision in Williams produced significant inconsistencies among courts analyzing the issue of expert testimony and defendants’ right to confront their accusers.
This Note will begin by explaining defendants’ right to confrontation and discussing the evolution of the Confrontation Clause through Crawford, Williams, and other seminal cases. The Note will then discuss the lack of uniformity in Confrontation Clause analyses across the country due to the fractured Williams decision. Next, it will examine the unreliability of crime labs and forensic evidence by illustrating crime lab scandals occurring in multiple states. The analysis argues that states should reject the Williams notion of inherent DNA testing reliability, and provide defendants with better protection by requiring the primary analyst to testify to satisfy the Confrontation Clause.