Programmers and Forensic Analyses: Accusers Under the Confrontation Clause

By: Karen Neville

Recent Supreme Court cases involving the Confrontation Clause have strengthened defendants’ right to face their accusers. Bullcoming v. New Mexico explored the question of whether the testimony of the technician who performs a forensic analysis may be substituted by that of another analyst, and the Court held that producing a surrogate witness who was not sufficiently involved in the analysis violates the confrontation right.

The presumption of infallible technology is fading, and courts may soon realize programmers have greater influence over the ultimate outcome of forensic tests than do the technicians who rely on such analytical tools. The confrontation right, so bolstered by recent cases, may encompass defendants’ right to demand testimony from the programmers of machines performing forensic analyses. The Bullcoming decision is certain to affect whether the right to confront the programmer will be recognized.

Cite: 2011 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 010

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