U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Argument On How DNA Evidence Is Introduced In Rape Trials – Williams v. Illinois

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear argument next week in a case involving the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment. The confrontation clause generally provides the right of an accused to “confront” a witness testifying against him or her at trial by way of cross-examination. In Williams v. Illinois, a case involving rape and DNA evidence, the court will review whether an accused’s constitutional rights to confront his accuser are violated when a laboratory analyst testifies at trial about DNA results when the analyst didn’t actually perform the testing.

How this case is decided case will have a significant impact on Michigan criminal trials including rape and other sex crimes. Often, DNA evidence is used to either identify or rule out a potential suspect in a crime. How this evidence is presented at trial may be a crucial factor in whether a defendant is found guilty or innocent. If you are under investigation for a Michigan sex crime, it is critical to speak with an experienced Michigan sex crime lawyer who can immediately begin investigating your matter and in the event of a trial, provide a vigorous defense.

In Williams, the Illinois State Police Laboratory sent biological evidence to be tested at a Maryland lab. The accused was arrested for a separate crime and submitted to a blood test. His DNA matched the DNA profile generated from the Maryland Lab. At trial an Illinois lab analyst testified about the DNA match, but admitted that she didn’t participate in any of the testing in Maryland and that her conclusions were based on an independent review. Williams was subsequently convicted of rape. Illinois higher courts affirmed this ruling, determining that because the lab analyst could be cross-examined and lab report itself was not submitted into evidence, the confrontation clause was not violated.

However, previous case law over the last few years has strongly debated the question of whether the lab analyst who performs a test – such as a DNA test or a blood alcohol test – must be present to testify. In 2004 in Crawford v. Washington, the court determined that prosecutors may not use statements from witnesses who are not available to testify, even where the statements are reliable. This determination has been applied to lab reports. In 2009 in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, the court noted, “Confrontation is designed not only to weed out the fraudulent analyst, but the incompetent one as well. Serious deficiencies have been found in the forensic evidence used in criminal trials.”


If you are under investigation for any sex crime, being able to challenge evidence presented against you if crucial. As a Michigan sex crimes defense lawyer, I will be following this case closely. For more information or if you are facing Michigan sex crimes charges, contact the dedicated sex crimes defense firm Grabel & Associates to protect your future and your freedom.