Flournoy v. Small

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 05-30-2012
  • Case #: 11-55015
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Clifton for the Court; Circuit Judges Farris and Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

Federal law does not clearly establish a Confrontation Clause violation where the trial court allows a forensic expert to testify based on reports prepared by other analysts.

Flournoy appealed the district court’s denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In 2003, Flournoy was convicted of forcible rape and assault with the intent to commit rape. On appeal, Flournoy asserted that the trial court violated his Confrontation Clause rights by admitting testimony of a forensic expert. The forensic expert testified as to her own reports and analysis of DNA sample. She then testified as to another expert’s analysis, and concluded that the analysis met all the proper standards for testing. The trial court admitted the records and testimony from the expert witness into evidence. The Court concluded that federal law does not support the claim that such testimony violates the Confrontation Clause. The Court found that Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts did not apply, since Flournoy’s case preceded the ruling. Also, Melendez-Diaz is distinguishable, because an expert testified about the analyst’s report in Flournoy’s case. Melendez-Diaz did not address the connection needed between an analyst’s testimony and the report being offered. It only required that a witness be present to avoid a Confrontation Clause issue. Therefore, the Court concluded that it has not been established that one analyst’s testimony on another analyst’s report violates the Confrontation Clause. The Court also denied Flournoy’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Flournoy raised this claim because his counsel failed to object to the expert testimony as a violation of the Confrontation Clause. The Court found that counsel’s failure to object did not prejudice Flournoy, because the Confrontation Clause claim would not have survived at trial or on appeal. AFFIRMED.

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