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Bullcoming v. New Mexico

United States Supreme Court
131 S. Ct. 2705 (2011)



In August 2005, Donald Bullcoming (defendant) was suspected of driving drunk. The police obtained a warrant for a blood-alcohol analysis. A sample of Bullcoming’s blood was drawn at a hospital and sent to the New Mexico Department of Health, Scientific Laboratory Division (SLD) for testing. The test was administered by Curtis Caylor, a forensic analyst. Caylor signed a certification and issued a report averring that the test was properly administered and that Bullcoming’s blood sample contained very high blood-alcohol content (BAC). At trial, the State of New Mexico (plaintiff) introduced Caylor’s report but did not call Caylor to the stand. The prosecution instead sought to call Gerasimos Razatos, a scientist at SLD. Razatos had not taken part in or observed the testing of Bullcoming’s blood sample. Bullcoming opposed introduction of the report without Caylor’s testimony on the grounds that it would violate his Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him. The trial court overruled his objection and allowed the report as a business record. Bullcoming was convicted of aggravated driving while intoxicated. The New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld the conviction. The New Mexico Supreme Court acknowledged that Caylor's report was testimonial evidence but held that admission of the report did not violate the Confrontation Clause because (1) Caylor merely transcribed the results of the testing conducted by machine and made no independent judgment himself, and (2) Bullcoming’s right to confront was preserved because Razatos was qualified as an expert to interpret the machine results. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Ginsburg, J.)

Concurrence (Sotomayor, J.)

Dissent (Kennedy, J.)

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