Hon. Alan J. Greiman
In a 5-4 decision receiving heavy media attention for its impact on expert testimony in criminal trials, the U.S. Supreme Court this week upheld the findings of a 2008 appellate court opinion authored by TC of counsel Alan Greiman.
Greiman was wrapping up his 11-year tenure as chief judge of the Illinois Appellate Court when he took up the case Williams v. Illinois, which centers on the Constitution’s “Confrontation Clause.”
Defendant Sandy Williams appealed his 2006 rape conviction on the basis that he never got the chance to question the Maryland lab analyst who examined his DNA evidence. (At the time, state crime labs were so backlogged that Illinois authorities frequently sent evidence to a Maryland lab, Cellmark Diagnostic Laboratory.)
At Williams’ trial, a state forensic scientist testified about Cellmark’s findings, but admitted she did not perform the tests herself.
In his 27-page opinion in the case, Greiman wrote that despite the witness’ inability to speak to the lab’s testing of the samples, she “provided a sufficient foundation upon which to partially base her assessment and conclusion.”
“Simply put, the report was not introduced to prove the truth of Cellmark’s results,” Greiman wrote. “Consequently, the Confrontation Clause was not violated.”
The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed Greiman’s opinion in 2010. On its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the National District Attorneys Association, several crime lab associations and the governments of 41 states filed amicus briefs supporting the State of Illinois in the case.
In a June 18 decision, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito agreed with Greiman’s finding. The scientist’s testimony was not introduced to prove "the truth of the matter asserted" so it wasn't inadmissible "hearsay evidence," Alito wrote in the court’s majority opinion.
"We now conclude that this form of expert testimony does not violate the Confrontation Clause," Alito wrote. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer joined him in the majority.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor that took the side of the convicted rapist and argued that he deserved a chance to cross-examine the DNA expert who profiled him.
Greiman joined TC’s Chicago office as of counsel in April.