State v. Gomez (2010)

In State v. Gomez, 226 Ariz. 165, 244 P.3d 1163 (2010), the state introduced DNA evidence derived by nearly the same "'assembly line'" process used by Sorenson Forensics through the testimony of a senior forensic analyst and supervisor. 226 Ariz. 165,3-4, 244 P.3d at 1164. Although that analyst "had not witnessed all of the steps in the process," she "had checked the technicians' records for any deviations from the laboratory's protocols, . . . performed the initial evidence screening and DNA extraction on most of the items," and "personally performed the final step in the process, interpretation and comparison" of "the DNA profiles generated in the laboratory." Id.3-4 & n.1. The court noted the final step that the testifying analyst had completed "was the only step involving human analysis." Id.4. The analyst in Gomez testified "about the laboratory's operating procedures, standards, and safeguards," the chain of custody, and "that several profiles derived from the evidence at the crime scene 'matched' the profile obtained from Gomez's blood sample." Id.4-5. Gomez argued that "the analyst's testimony about the DNA profiles was hearsay because she was not involved in generating those profiles." Id.11. The court, relying on Melendez-Diaz, began by noting that "the Confrontation Clause does not require that every person in the chain of custody be available for cross-examination." Id.14. Rather, "the Sixth Amendment requires only that those who do testify about the chain of custody be available for cross-examination." Id. The court ultimately held that, even assuming the DNA profiles were hearsay and that the analyst's testimony was the functional equivalent of entering the DNA profiles into evidence, the testimony did not violate the Confrontation Clause because "the analyst was able to review that work, testify from her own knowledge as to the procedures used, and answer questions during cross-examination about the accuracy of the results." Id.12-13, 21. The technicians, on the other hand, "at most could have testified about the mechanical steps they took to process the DNA samples." Id. The court then concluded the analyst's expert testimony that the DNA profiles "matched" similarly did not violate the Confrontation Clause because the analyst did not "'act as a conduit for another non-testifying expert's opinion'" and instead "formed her own opinions, based on a type of data normally relied upon by experts in her field." Id.5, 22-23, quoting State v. Snelling, 225 Ariz. 182,19, 236 P.3d 409, 414 (2010). Additionally, the analyst "was subject to cross-examination about her independent conclusion that several of the DNA profiles came from the same person." Id.24.