Introduction

Topic of Interest: Forensic Testimony, Smith v. Arizona

Topic of Interest: Forensic Testimony, Smith v. Arizona

Date

December 2023

Overview

On September 29, 2023, the Supreme Court granted certiorari for the case of Smith v. Arizona (docket 22-899).1 The key question before the Court is “whether the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment permits the prosecution in a criminal trial to present testimony by a substitute expert conveying the testimonial statements of a nontestifying forensic analyst, on the grounds that (a) the testifying expert offers some independent opinion and the analyst’s statements are offered not for their truth but to explain the expert’s opinion, and (b) the defendant did not independently seek to subpoena the analyst.”2 Members of the forensic and court communities are awaiting the Supreme Court’s response. Depending on its stance, this decision could result in myriad implications pursuant to the admission of forensic evidence compliant with the Confrontation Clause, particularly regarding substitute witnesses. 

This document provides a case synopsis of Smith v. Arizona, Supreme Court decisions related to expert witness testimony, and example situations that may add complexity to satisfying the Confrontation Clause. It also presents questions for forensic analysts to consider when preparing their case notes and reports. 

Update

  • January 10, 2024 | Oral arguments were heard before the U.S. Supreme Court. Click HERE to access an audio recording and transcript.


Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence document was provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Contact us at ForensicCOE@rti.org with any questions and subscribe to our newsletter for notifications.


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