Williams v. Illinois and Forensic Evidence – The Bleeding Edge of Crawford

The application of Crawford principles in the context of forensic evidence continues to plague the criminal justice system. The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Williams v. Illinois raises more questions than it answers about when and how an expert may testify to conclusions based upon the opinions or work of other (non-testifying) experts or technicians. This article reviews the relevant case law, and explores how trial prosecutors can present a case involving forensic testing conducted by a multitude of technicians and experts. It also addresses Williams’ impact on cold cases, in which original experts who performed autopsies and other forensic examinations and testing are no longer available for trial. The author provides practical suggestions to trial prosecutors who must balance limited resources against the need to secure convictions that will withstand confrontation challenges on appeal.