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Name: People v. Rutterschmidt
Case #: S176213
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 10/15/2012

Any violation of appellant’s Sixth Amendment right to confrontation did not require reversal because the prosecution showed beyond a reasonable doubt that the error was harmless. Appellant was convicted of murder. The prosecution’s theory was that appellant drugged the victim and then ran over him with a car. To prove the theory, at trial the prosecution presented the testimony of an expert that analysts working under his supervision had tested the victim’s blood and that the tests showed the presence of the suspected medications. The data from the tests was given to clerical staff who generated reports. The reports were not introduced into evidence. The trial court overruled the objection that the testimony resulted in a violation of appellant’s Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. The appellate court affirmed, finding no violation, and, even if there was, the error was not prejudicial. Without deciding whether it was error for the trial court to allow the testimony of the toxicologist, the Supreme Court ruled that because of the overwhelming evidence against appellant, any error was harmless.

[Editor’s note: Rutterschmidt is one of three companion cases from the California Supreme Court addressing the confrontation clause and is the only one of the trio that is unanimous.]