Vehicular Manslaughter Case in California

In People v. Lopez (2012) 55 Cal.4th 569, a jury convicted the defendant of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. (Lopez, supra, 55 Cal.4th at p. 573.) At trial the prosecution's criminalist, John Willey, testified that he had reviewed a laboratory report prepared by his colleague, Jorge Pea, who had analyzed defendant's blood sample. (Id. at p. 574.) Pea did not testify, and the prosecution did not show he was unavailable as a witness. (Ibid.) Willey testified that he had been employed in the laboratory for more than 17 years, he knew its procedures for processing blood samples for alcohol analysis, and he had trained Pea and was intimately familiar with Pea's procedures and how Pea tested blood samples for alcohol. (Ibid.) Referring to Pea's report, Willey testified that Pea used a gas chromatograph to analyze the defendant's blood sample, and Pea's analysis showed the defendant's blood-alcohol concentration was 0.09 percent. (Ibid.) Willey also testified that, based on his own "separate abilities as a criminal analyst," he too concluded that the blood-alcohol concentration in defendant's blood sample was 0.09 percent. (Ibid.) At the prosecution's request, the trial court admitted into evidence a copy of Pea's laboratory report. (Ibid.) Defendant objected to the admission of Pea's report and Willey's testimony about its contents. (Lopez, supra, at pp. 574, 584.) This court reversed the Lopez defendant's conviction, and our Supreme Court reversed our decision, holding that "the critical portions of Pea's report were not made with the requisite degree of formality or solemnity to be considered testimonial." (Lopez, supra, 55 Cal.4th at p. 582.) The Supreme Court noted that pages 2 through 6 of Pea's six-page report "consisted entirely of data generated by a gas chromatography machine to measure calibrations, quality control, and the concentration of alcohol in a blood sample." (Id. at p. 583.) The court stated that, "even though nontestifying analyst Pea's signature appeared on the laboratory report's second page (the printout of the machine's calibrations) and the remaining pages bore the handwritten initials 'JRP' (presumably Jorge Pea's initials), no statement by Pea, express or implied, appeared on any of those pages." (Id. at p. 583.) The Lopez court also noted that the report's first page was a chart containing handwritten information by the testing analyst, including information filled in by a laboratory assistant (Brian Constantino, whose initials appeared at the top of the page) that included defendant's name, the laboratory number given to defendant's blood sample, the date and time the sample was collected, and the date and time the sample was received at the laboratory. (Ibid.) The Supreme Court further noted in Lopez that Pea's initials appeared in a box on page 1 that bore the heading "Analyzed By," and the chart contained information apparently entered by Pea which "showed . . . the results of the blood analysis (0.09), indicating that defendant's blood sample had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.09 percent." (Lopez, supra, 55 Cal.4th at pp. 583-584.) In holding that the critical portions of Pea's lab report were not made with the requisite degree of formality or solemnity to be considered testimonial, the Lopez court reasoned that "neither the laboratory assistant nor Pea signed, certified, or swore to the truth of the contents of page 1 of the report." (Lopez, supra, 55 Cal.4th at p. 584.) It also noted that, based on the lab assistant's labeling of defendant's blood sample and the machine-generated results for that sample, the prosecution expert witness (Willey) "gave his independent opinion--reflecting his 'separate abilities as a criminal analyst'--that defendant's blood sample contained 0.09 percent alcohol." (Ibid.)