8129 – It’s the Real Thing, Isn’t It


When you come to think of it, how do you really know that powder was cocaine?  This case got started when Boston police got a tip that a K-Mart employee, named Luis, was engaging in suspicious activity.  Police set up surveillance.  You might say a blue light special turned into a blue light special and they detained Luis and found on his person white clear plastic bags containing powder that looked like cocaine.  They also arrested two other men who, when they got out of the police car, left behind 19 more plastic bags.  The samples were submitted to the state lab which reported back by affidavit that the substance was indeed cocaine.  The defendant moved that he had the constitutional right to cross-examine the analyst.  Two Lowers Courts said no way, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed holding analysts must be produced at trial.  The Court said forensic evidence is not immune from the risk of manipulation and 95% of cases are resolved by plea bargaining.  Four justices dissented but the majority ruled, and those who say it’s cocaine won’t be able to take a powder when it comes time to prove it.


Luis E. Melenez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, U.S. Supreme Court, June 25, 2009, Alito, J., No. 07-591