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The D.C. Court of Appeals Dismisses a Case Relying on Melendez-Diaz

The D.C Court of Appeals has dismissed a conviction relying on Melendez-Diaz! The case is Tabaka v. District of Columbia.

The Court determined that, after Melendez-Diaz‘s very powerful language about how a Certificate of Nonexistence of Record (a “CNR”) is a testimonial statement which requires a person have a right to cross-examine the person offering the evidence, a conviction which was based on such a certificate must be dismissed.

The Supreme Court’s analysis conclusively shows that the CNR in this case, “a clerk’s certificate attesting to the fact that the clerk had searched for a particular relevant record and failed to find it,” id., was inadmissible over objection without corresponding testimony by the . . . official who had performed the search.

It’s a humble case, involving the offense of driving when a driver’s license hadn’t been issued, but, hey, it’s a start.

In other D.C. Court of Appeals news, the Court held that a 911 call immediately after a shooting, where the caller spent a most of the call describing the shooter, was only for the purpose of allowing police to respond to an emergency.

The statements made by an unknown 911 caller about the clothing worn by the person who had recently discharged a gun, as well as the sequence of events that surrounded the shooting, were not made to help the police prosecute the shooter later (though they did prove very useful for that purpose).

Thus, there was no Confrontation Clause right that attached to those statements, so the person’s trial wasn’t constitutionally infirm, which, I’m sure, is a huge relief to everyone.

When it comes to the Confrontation Clause, the D.C. Court of Appeals giventh, and it taketh away.

If you have questions about how federal criminal charges are different than state criminal charges, please visit this page on Maryland federal criminal charges or Washington DC federal criminal charges.