Smith v. Arizona

Smith v. Arizona centered on whether the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause is violated when an expert witness testifies based on another analyst’s work without that analyst being available for cross-examination. Jason Smith was convicted of drug offenses after an expert testified using lab notes from another analyst who did not testify.

NDAA’s Amicus Brief

The National District Attorneys Association submitted an amicus brief supporting the state’s position, emphasizing the need for flexibility in forensic testimony to avoid disruptions in trials due to the unavailability of original analysts. We argued that practical implications should be considered to ensure that critical forensic evidence can be presented effectively.

Overview of the Decision

On June 21, 2024, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of Smith, holding that when an expert conveys an absent lab analyst’s statements to support their opinion, and the statements provide that support only if true, then the statements come into evidence for their truth. The Court vacated the Arizona Court of Appeals decision and remanded the case back to the state court to determine whether the out of court statements made by the expert were testimonial.

Impact on Prosecutors

Prosecutors must be aware of this significant opinion and its implications in the presentation of forensic evidence. Although the Court determined that out-of-court statements conveyed by the expert are considered for their truth and are thus hearsay, the Court did not determine whether these statements are “testimonial hearsay” thus implicating the Confrontation Clause.

Strategy and courtroom approaches to presenting forensic evidence after
Smith may vary (including re-testing) depending upon your jurisdiction. NDAA will continue to monitor the consequences of this opinion and provide future guidance.

Learn more about other recent Supreme Court decisions: United States v. Ramini and City of Grants Pass v. Johnson

National District Attorneys Association
1400 Crystal Drive, Suite 330
Arlington, VA 22202

Contact Us