But one criminal case on which they did act today, involving the Sixth Amendment right to confront the prosecution’s witnesses in a criminal trial, drew a dissent from the unlikely pairing of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor.
Sotomayor joined Gorsuch’s dissent from the denial of review in Stuart v. Alabama. The defendant in the case, Vanessa Stuart (who has since changed her name to Vanessa American Horse), was charged with driving under the influence and criminally negligent homicide after she rear-ended Tiffany Howell’s car, causing Howell to strike a tree and die.
At Stuart’s trial, prosecutors introduced lab reports as evidence of Stuart’s blood alcohol level. But they did not ask the scientist who signed the lab report to testify. And that omission, Stuart contended, was inconsistent with Bullcoming v. New Mexico, in which the Supreme Court held that introducing a lab report at trial without testimony from the person who prepared the report violates the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause, which gives a defendant the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”
The justices turned down Stuart today, over a four-page dissent from Gorsuch, who began by noting that because “cross-examination may be the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth, the Constitution promises every person accused of a crime the right to confront his accusers.” “That promise,” Gorsuch continued, “was broken here.”
Gorsuch went on to explain that, although the state court’s errors in Stuart’s case were in his view obvious, they were also understandable, because the Supreme Court’s opinions on the confrontation clause – and in particular a 2012 case in which no rule was able to garner a majority of the votes – “have sown confusion.” He (and Sotomayor) would have granted review to clarify some of the issues surrounding cases like Stuart’s.
In other news, Willie Falcon was deported... but not to Cuba. He was sent to the DR. From the Miami Herald:
One of South Florida’s most infamous cocaine cowboys — Willie Falcon — has been deported to the Dominican Republic after his bid to stay in the United States failed following his 20-year prison sentence on a drug-related money-laundering conviction.
Falcon, 62, was deported earlier this month because he was a convicted felon without U.S. citizenship. He had been held in Louisiana since June 2017 by immigration authorities who at first sought to deport him to his native Cuba.
But Falcon, who recently lost his final federal court appeal to block his deportation, won’t be sent to Cuba as he and his Miami family members initially feared, according to federal officials. The Dominican Republic government agreed to accept Falcon as a resident.