(a) Confrontation Clause and Hearsay in Criminal Cases. In considering the following sections, it is necessary to recognize the distinction between hearsay rules and the requirements of the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Article 12 of the Declaration of Rights. The admissibility of an out-of-court statement offered for its truth is determined by a two-step inquiry. First, the statement must be admissible pursuant to the rules of evidence. Second, if offered by the Commonwealth, the statement must satisfy the requirements of the confrontation clause.
In Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 54 (2004), the United States Supreme Court explained that the Sixth Amendment expressed the common-law right of the defendant in a criminal case to confrontation, and that it was subject only to those exceptions that existed at the time of the amendment’s framing in 1791. As a result, the Supreme Court held that “testimonial statements” of a witness for the government in a criminal case who is not present at trial and subject to cross-examination are not admissible unless the witness is unavailable and the defendant had a prior opportunity to cross-examine the witness. Id. at 53–54. Accord Commonwealth v. Gonsalves, 445 Mass. 1, 14, 833 N.E.2d 549, 559 (2005), cert. denied, 548 U.S. 926 (2006) (“constitutional provision of the confrontation clause trumps [our own] rules of evidence”). In Commonwealth v. Lao, 450 Mass. 215, 223, 877 N.E.2d 557, 563 (2007), the Supreme Judicial Court held that “the protection provided by art. 12 is coextensive with the guarantees of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
(1) Testimonial Versus Nontestimonial; the Primary Purpose Test. The United States Supreme Court and the Supreme Judicial Court use the primary purpose test to determine whether a statement is testimonial or nontestimonial. See Michigan v. Bryant, 131 S. Ct. 1143 (2011); Davis v. Washington, 547 U.S. 813 (2006); Commonwealth v. Beatrice, 460 Mass. 255, 951 N.E.2d 26 (2011); Commonwealth v. Smith, 460 Mass. 385, 951 N.E.2d 674 (2011). The primary purpose test’s key analysis is whether the statement is procured with the primary purpose of creating an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony. Commonwealth v. Beatrice, 460 Mass. at 260–262, 951 N.E.2d at 32–34 (holding that statements are testimonial when “the primary purpose . . . is to establish or prove past events potentially relevant to later criminal prosecution”). The primary purpose test is objective, and “the relevant inquiry into the parties’ statements and actions is not the subjective or actual purpose of the particular parties, but the purpose that reasonable participants would have had, as ascertained from the parties’ statements and actions and the circumstances in which the encounter occurred.” Michigan v. Bryant, 131 S. Ct. at 1156. See also Commonwealth v. Smith, 460 Mass. at 394, 951 N.E.2d at 683 (“[T]he ‘primary purpose’ inquiry [is] objective. The parties’ subjective motives or intentions are largely irrelevant.”). The following factors are relevant to an analysis under the primary purpose test.
(A) Whether an Emergency Exists. In Davis v. Washington, 547 U.S. 813, 822 (2006), the United States Supreme Court held as follows:
“Statements are nontestimonial when made in the course of police interrogation under circumstances objectively indicating that the primary purpose of the interrogation is to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency. They are testimonial when the circumstances objectively indicate that there is no such ongoing emergency, and that the primary purpose of the interrogation is to establish or prove past events potentially relevant to later criminal prosecution.”
In Michigan v. Bryant, 131 S. Ct. 1143, 1158–1160 (2011), the Supreme Court held that “whether an emergency exists and is ongoing is a highly context-dependent inquiry” and explained that “‘a conversation which begins as an interrogation to determine the need for emergency assistance’ can ‘evolve into testimonial statements,’” and “[a] conversation that begins with a prosecutorial purpose may nevertheless devolve into nontestimonial statements if an unexpected emergency arises.”
In Commonwealth v. Beatrice, 460 Mass. 255, 259–260, 951 N.E.2d 26, 32 (2011), and Commonwealth v. Smith, 460 Mass. 385, 392–393, 951 N.E.2d 674, 682 (2011), both decided after Michigan v. Bryant, the Supreme Judicial Court identified a nonexhaustive list of factors relevant to determining whether an ongoing emergency exists at the time a declarant makes statements to a law enforcement agent:
– whether an armed assailant poses a substantial threat to the public at large, the victim, or the responding officers;
– the type of weapon that has been employed;
– the severity of the victim’s injuries;
– the formality of the interrogation;
– the involved parties’ statements and actions; and
– whether the victim’s safety is at substantial imminent risk.
See Commonwealth v. Beatrice, 460 Mass. at 260–262, 951 N.E.2d at 32–34; Commonwealth v. Smith, 460 Mass. at 393–394, 951 N.E.2d at 682–683.
In Michigan v. Bryant, 131 S. Ct. 1143, 1160 (2011), the Supreme Court additionally explained that “whether an ongoing emergency exists is simply one factor—[although] an important factor—that informs the ultimate inquiry regarding the ‘primary purpose’ of an interrogation.” “[T]here may be other circumstances, aside from ongoing emergencies, when a statement is not procured with a primary purpose of creating an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony.” Id. at 1155.
(B) The Formality of the Statements and the Actions of the Parties Involved. The formality of an interrogation is an important factor for determining whether a statement was procured with a primary purpose of creating an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony. Michigan v. Bryant, 131 S. Ct. at 1160. In Michigan v. Bryant, 131 S. Ct. 1143 (2011), the United States Supreme Court held that questioning that occurred in an exposed, public area, prior to the arrival of emergency medical services (when the declarant had been shot in the abdomen and the armed assailant was still at large), and in a disorganized fashion, was informal and “distinguishable from [a] formal station-house interrogation.” Id. at 1160.
The statements of a declarant and the actions of both the declarant and interrogators also provide objective evidence of the interrogation’s primary purpose. Id. at 1160–1161. The Supreme Court explained that looking to the content of both the questions and the answers is an important factor in the primary purpose test because both interrogators and declarants may have mixed motives. Id. at 1161. Police officers’ dual responsibilities as both first responders and criminal investigators may lead them to act with different motives simultaneously or in quick succession. Id. Likewise, during an ongoing emergency, victims may make statements they think will help end the threat to their safety but may not envision these statements being used for prosecution. Id. Alternatively, a severely injured victim may lack the ability to have any purpose at all in answering questions. Id. The inquiry is still objective, however, and it focuses on the understanding and purpose of a reasonable victim in the actual victim’s circumstances, which prominently include the victim’s physical state. Id.
(C) Whether the Statements Were Made to Non–Law Enforcement Personnel. The United States Supreme Court has expressly reserved the question “whether and when statements made to someone other than law enforcement personnel are ‘testimonial.’” Michigan v. Bryant, 131 S. Ct. at 1155 n.3. Cf. Commonwealth v. Gonsalves, 445 Mass. 1, 12–13, 833 N.E.2d 549, 558–559 (2005).
“[W]here statements contained in hospital medical records demonstrate, on their face, that they were included for the purpose of medical treatment, that evident purpose renders the statements both nontestimonial as to the author of the record, and as falling within the scope of [G. L. c. 233,] § 79.” Commonwealth v. Irene, 462 Mass. 600, 618, 970 N.E.2d 291, 305 (2012).
(2) Records Admitted Without Live Testimony. Many cases since Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), have challenged the admissibility of certificates attested to by nontestifying experts. In Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305 (2009), the United States Supreme Court held that the reasoning of Crawford applied to certain certificates of analysis that had been frequently introduced in criminal trials to establish that a substance was a “controlled substance” under G. L. c. 94C. The Supreme Court held that a drug certificate in the form of an affidavit by the analyst was a testimonial statement because it was prepared with the knowledge that it would be used at trial, and thus its admission in evidence over the defendant’s objection violated the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment because the technician or scientist who made the findings set forth in the certificate was not made available for questioning by the defense. As a result, the United States Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Appeals Court in Commonwealth v. Melendez-Diaz, 69 Mass. App. Ct. 1114, 870 N.E.2d 676 (2007) (unpublished), and effectively overruled the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court in Commonwealth v. Verde, 444 Mass. 279, 283–285, 827 N.E.2d 701, 705–706 (2005). Analytical certificates made under oath by chemists or ballisticians that a substance is a drug, is of a specific weight, or both, or that a thing is a working firearm, “are functionally identical to live, in-court testimony, doing ‘precisely what a witness does on direct examination’” (emphasis deleted). Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. at 310–311, quoting Davis v. Washington, 547 U.S. 813, 830 (2006). See also Commonwealth v. Brown, 75 Mass. App. Ct. 361, 363, 914 N.E.2d 332, 333–334 (2009) (applying Melendez-Diaz holding to ballistics certificate).
In Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305, 306–309 (2009), the Supreme Court explicitly rejected the idea that an analyst’s testimony was the only way to prove the chemical composition of a substance. In Commonwealth v. MacDonald, 459 Mass. 148, 945 N.E.2d 260 (2011), the Supreme Judicial Court stated as follows:
“Melendez-Diaz stands for the proposition that if a certificate of drug analysis is used, it must be accompanied by the testimony of an analyst so that the defendant’s right to confrontation is preserved. However, nowhere does the decision state that where . . . a prosecutor uses the opinion testimony of an expert to establish the composition of a drug, that testimony requires corroboration. . . . A prosecutor’s decision to proceed without a certificate of drug analysis does not violate the holding in Melendez-Diaz.”
Id. at 155–156, 945 N.E.2d at 266.
In Commonwealth v. Zeininger, 459 Mass. 775, 947 N.E.2d 1060 (2011), the Supreme Judicial Court held that statements contained in an annual certification and accompanying diagnostic records, attesting to the proper functioning of a breath-testing machine used to test the defendant’s blood alcohol content, were not testimonial, and that the defendant’s confrontation rights were not violated by the admission of the certification and records without the live testimony of the technician who had performed the certification test on the machine. Id. at 788–789, 947 N.E.2d at 1069–1070. The critical distinction that “ma[de] all the difference” was that the certificate of analysis in Melendez-Diaz resembled “the type of ‘ex parte in-court testimony or its functional equivalent’ at the nucleus of the confrontation clause” because it was particularized and performed in aid of a prosecution seeking to prove the commission of a past act, while the Office of Alcohol Testing certification records were generalized and performed prospectively in primary aid of the administration of a regulatory program. Id., quoting Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 51–52 (2004).
In Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 131 S. Ct. 2705 (2011), the United States Supreme Court decided five to four that a blood alcohol analysis report, which certified that the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration was well above the threshold for aggravated driving while intoxicated under New Mexico law, and which was introduced at trial through the testimony of an analyst who had not performed the certification, was testimonial within the meaning of the confrontation clause. The Supreme Court found that the laboratory report in Bullcoming resembled those in Melendez-Diaz “[i]n all material respects.”
In Commonwealth v. Parenteau, 460 Mass. 1, 948 N.E.2d 883 (2011), the Commonwealth introduced in evidence a certificate from the Registry of Motor Vehicles attesting that a notice of license suspension or revocation was mailed to the defendant; the Commonwealth did not present any testimony from a witness on behalf of the registry. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the certificate was testimonial in nature and that its admission without testimony from the preparers violated the confrontation clause. Id. at 8–9, 948 N.E.2d at 890. The court explained that one “must examine carefully the purpose for which [a document is] created” when “determining the admissibility of a particular business record.” Id. at 10, 948 N.E.2d at 891. In Parenteau, the business record was created two months after the criminal complaint was issued and therefore was “plainly” created to establish an element of the statutory offense at trial. Id. at 8, 948 N.E.2d at 890. Importantly, the court noted that “[i]f such a record had been created at the time the notice was mailed and preserved by the registry as part of the administration of its regular business affairs, then it would have been admissible at trial.” Id. at 10, 948 N.E.2d at 891. See also Commonwealth v. Ellis, 79 Mass. App. Ct. 330, 945 N.E.2d 983 (2011).
The admission of a properly completed and returned G. L. c. 209A return of service absent the testimony of the officer who completed it does not violate a defendant’s confrontation clause rights. Commonwealth v. Shangkuan, 78 Mass. App. Ct. 827, 833–834, 837, 943 N.E.2d 466, 472–473, 475 (2011) (“[T]he primary purpose for which the return of service in this case was created is to serve the routine administrative functions of the court system, ensuring that the defendant received the fair notice to which he is statutorily and constitutionally entitled . . . , establishing a time and manner of notice for purposes of determining when the order expires or is subject to renewal, and assuring the plaintiff that the target of the order knows of its existence. The return of service here was not created for the purpose of establishing or proving some fact at a potential future criminal trial.”). See also Commonwealth v. Fox, 81 Mass. App. Ct. 244, 246, 961 N.E.2d 611, 613 (2012) (sexual offender registry records are admissible as business records without violation of confrontation clause because they are not created to prove fact at trial).
(3) Expert Testimony. In the years since Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305 (2009), was decided, the United States Supreme Court and the Supreme Judicial Court have considered to what extent that case alters procedures governing the admissibility of expert testimony. That debate is ongoing.
In Commonwealth v. Barbosa, 457 Mass. 773, 785–787, 933 N.E.2d 93, 106–108 (2010), the Supreme Judicial Court held that Melendez-Diaz does not “purport to alter the rules governing expert testimony” and does not, therefore, forbid one expert from testifying and offering an opinion on the basis of an examination of tests performed and data collected by others, so long as the witness does not testify to the details of the hearsay on direct-examination. See also Commonwealth v. Phim, 462 Mass. 470, 479, 969 N.E.2d 663, 670–671 (2012), and Commonwealth v. Greineder, 458 Mass. 207, 235–239, 936 N.E.2d 372, 393–397 (2010), vacated and remanded in light of Williams v. Illinois, 132 S. Ct. 2221 (2012).
In Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 131 S. Ct. 2705 (2011), the United States Supreme Court held five to four that admission in evidence of a blood alcohol analysis report, which certified that the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration was well above the threshold for aggravated driving while intoxicated under New Mexico law, and which was introduced at trial through the testimony of an analyst who had not performed the certification, violated the confrontation clause. The Supreme Court found that the laboratory report in Bullcoming resembled those in Melendez-Diaz “[i]n all material respects.” Id. at 2717.
In Commonwealth v. Munoz, 461 Mass. 126, 132, 958 N.E.2d 1167, 1173–1174 (2011), vacated and remanded in light of Williams v. Illinois, 132 S. Ct. 2221 (2012), the Supreme Judicial Court opined that Bullcoming did not call Barbosa into question. In Munoz, the court affirmed the distinction between a substitute analyst’s permissible testimony as to independent opinions based on data generated by a nontestifying analyst and a substitute analyst’s impermissible testimony as to the testing analyst’s reports and conclusions.
Several days after the decision in Munoz, the United States Supreme Court held five to four that the testimony of a forensic specialist identifying a match between the defendant’s blood sample and a DNA sample taken from the victim’s vaginal swab was admissible even where the specialist did not work for the outside lab that had produced the DNA sample. Williams v. Illinois, 132 S. Ct. 2221, 2227 (2012). Writing for four Justices, Justice Alito found that the specialist’s testimony regarding the DNA match was not admitted for its truth, but for the limited purpose of explaining the basis for her own independent expert opinion. Id. at 2236. In the opinion of the same four Justices, the underlying DNA report was nontestimonial since it was prepared to catch an unknown rapist who was still at large, not for the primary purpose of accusing a targeted individual. Id. at 2243. In a concurrence, Justice Thomas found no confrontation clause violation because the underlying DNA report lacked “the requisite ‘formality and solemnity’ to be considered ‘testimonial’ for purposes of the confrontation clause.” Id. at 2260 (Thomas, J., concurring). In dissent, Justice Kagan, joined by three other Justices, found the DNA report to be precisely the sort of testimonial evidence barred by the decisions in Melendez-Diaz and Bullcoming. Id. at 2273–2274, 2277 (Kagan, J., dissenting).
Subsequent to the decision in Williams v. Illinois, the United States Supreme Court granted petitions for certiorari in both Commonwealth v. Greineder, 458 Mass. 207, 936 N.E.2d 372 (2010), and Commonwealth v. Munoz, 461 Mass. 126, 958 N.E.2d 1167 (2011), and issued orders vacating those judgments and remanding the cases for further consideration in light of Williams v. Illinois. Greineder was argued before the Supreme Judicial Court on November 8, 2012, and the defendant in Munoz voluntarily dismissed the appeal prior to any reargument. Prior to the argument in Greineder, the Supreme Judicial Court invited amicus briefs that address
“(1) what effect, if any, the Supreme Court’s holding has on the defendant’s conviction and this court’s earlier decision, see 458 Mass. 207 (2010), and (2) going forward, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision, what changes, if any, must or should be made to Massachusetts practice in cases where an expert witness provides opinion testimony based on lab results or other underlying data prepared by others who do not testify.”
Amicus Announcement, Commonwealth v. Greineder (No. SJC-8866), at http://www.mass.gov/courts/sjc/amicus/sjc-8866.html.
(b) Confrontation Clause Inapplicable. Under certain conditions, the confrontation clause of the Federal and State Constitutions does not bar the admission of testimonial statements, introduced for purposes other than establishing the truth of the matter asserted, in criminal cases even though the declarant is not available for cross-examination. Commonwealth v. Hurley, 455 Mass. 53, 65 n.12, 913 N.E.2d 850, 861 n.12 (2009). See Commonwealth v. Pelletier, 71 Mass. App. Ct. 67, 69–72, 879 N.E.2d 125, 128–130 (2008) (wife’s statement was properly admitted for a limited purpose other than its truth even though she did not testify at the defendant’s trial).
(c) Massachusetts Law Versus Federal Law. Based on differences in the language of the Sixth Amendment (defendant’s right to be “confronted with the witnesses against him”) and Article 12 of the Declaration of Rights (defendant’s right to “meet the witnesses against him face to face”), the State Constitution has been interpreted by the Supreme Judicial Court to provide a criminal defendant more protection than the Sixth Amendment in certain respects. Compare Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836, 844–850 (1990) (confrontation clause does not guarantee criminal defendants an absolute right to a face-to-face meeting with the witnesses against them at trial; upholding constitutionality of a procedure whereby a young child alleged to have been the victim of a sexual assault testified at trial outside the courtroom but was visible to defendant and jury on a monitor), with Commonwealth v. Amirault, 424 Mass. 618, 631–632, 677 N.E.2d 652, 662 (1997) (Article 12 requires that the jury be allowed to assess the encounter between the witness and the accused with the witness testifying in the face of the accused; in certain circumstances, however, the encounter between the defendant and the child witness may take place outside the courtroom and be presented at trial by videotape; see G. L. c. 278, § 16D). See also Commonwealth v. Bergstrom, 402 Mass. 534, 541–542, 524 N.E.2d 366, 371–372 (1988). However, when the question involves the relationship between the hearsay rule and its exceptions, on the one hand, and the right to confrontation, on the other hand, “the protection provided by art. 12 is coextensive with the guarantees of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Commonwealth v. DeOliveira, 447 Mass. 56, 57 n.1, 849 N.E.2d 218, 221 n.1 (2006), citing Commonwealth v. Whelton, 428 Mass. 24, 28, 696 N.E.2d 540, 545 (1998), and Commonwealth v. Childs, 413 Mass. 252, 260, 596 N.E.2d 351, 356 (1992).
(d) Waiver of Right to Confrontation. The right to confrontation may be waived. See Commonwealth v. Szerlong, 457 Mass. 858, 860–861, 933 N.E.2d 633, 637–639 (2010) (doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing extinguishes right to confrontation); Commonwealth v. Chubbuck, 384 Mass. 746, 751, 429 N.E.2d 1002, 1005 (1981) (defendant waived right to be present at trial based on persistent disruptive behavior in the courtroom); Commonwealth v. Flemmi, 360 Mass. 693, 694, 277 N.E.2d 523, 524 (1971) (if defendant is voluntarily absent after trial begins, “the court may proceed without the defendant”). See also Mass. R. Crim. P. 18(a)(1) (“If a defendant is present at the beginning of a trial and thereafter absents himself without cause or without leave of court, the trial may proceed to a conclusion in all respects except the imposition of sentence as though the defendant were still present.”). A defendant must be competent to plead guilty in order to waive his or her presence at trial. Commonwealth v. L’Abbe, 421 Mass. 262, 268–269, 656 N.E.2d 1242, 1245–1246 (1995).