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Name: People v. Rutterschmidt
Case #: B209568
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 08/18/2009
Subsequent History: review granted 12/2/09 (S176213)
Summary

Admission of the chief laboratory director’s testimony relaying toxicology results contained in a report did not violate the confrontation clause. Appellants were elderly women who preyed on homeless men by giving them a place to live, taking out accidental death life insurance policies on them, and then killing the men in what appeared to be hit and run collisions in order to cash in the policies. One of the victims has been given a combination of prescriptions drugs before he was run over. At the murder trial, the chief laboratory director at the coroner’s office testified about the presence and quantity of drugs found in the decedent’s body. The actual reports were not introduced. Appellants argued on appeal that introduction of this evidence violated their right to confrontation as applied in Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 46, and Melendez-Diaz (2009) 129 S.Ct. 2527. The court held that the claim was only cognizable as to appellant Golay because only she made a confrontation clause objection at trial. But the claim fails on the merits. The court distinguished Melendez-Diaz because here the toxicology findings were not proven by affidavit. Instead, the director, subject to cross-examination, testified that the data which he administratively reviewed after the tests were done, supported his personal conclusion as to the presence of certain drugs in the decedent’s body. Melendez-Diaz did not reach the question of whether such expert testimony violates the Sixth Amendment. Rather this case is controlled by People v. Geier (2007) 41 Cal.4th 555, where the California Supreme Court held an expert’s reliance on a report containing data collected by another scientist is not the same as the admission of hearsay contained in the report itself.