Washington Legal Roundup – Division I
Sione Lui was convicted of second degree murder for the strangulation death of his fiancée, Elaina Boussiacos. He argued on appeal that his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation was violated because the medical examiner that performed the autopsy was not called as a witness. Instead, the medical examiner’s supervisor, who had overseen all of the investigation and signed off on the medical examiner’s report was called.
The case hinged on whether the report itself was “testimonial” under Crawford v. Washington and the more recently decided Melendez-Diaz v. Washington. The Court of Appeals determined that Melendez-Diaz was distinguishable. In Melendez-Diaz the U.S. Supreme Court held that admission of chemical drug test report that was submitted at trial without the testimony of the scientist violated the Sixth Amendment.
Unlike in Melendez-Diaz, however, a medical examiner who had signed off in the report in Lui was called to testify and subjected to “the crucible of cross examination.”
Look for the Washington Supreme Court and perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court to take a look at this case.