What Does Bullcoming Mean For the Military?

I still giggle at the name of this case. I’m immature that way.

As soon as I compose myself, then I look at it with my serious face.

Today’s decision in Bullcoming v. New Mexico changes the way that forensic laboratory tests are entered in court and testified-to by experts. Essentially, it states that the actual scientists/technicians who performed forensic tests/analysis must be made available to the defense for cross examination, unless unavailable (in the legal sense). It’s a bit more complex than that, but you can always check out the synopsis here.

This is particularly important in the military where the vast majority of drug-related punishment originates with urine tested at one of the military drug laboratories.

Prior to Bullcoming, these tests and lab reports were always certified and explained at trial by a surrogate and not the actual technician who performed the test, maintained the equipment, and wrote the report. Because of this, most accused servicemembers choose to accept lesser punishment or guilty pleas knowing the ease by which the government could obtain a conviction using only a stack of lab reports and some random scientist witness from one of the laboratories.

Now, this recent decision may embolden those who would otherwise surrender. It may also give the government pause when considering alternatives for lesser drug-related misconduct.

It will be interesting to see what the government does in order to accommodate Bullcoming. I don’t mean to be cynical, but I’m fully prepared to be underwhelmed.

We’ll see.

UPDATE: And, here comes buzzkill Army Scott to ruin my fun moment by pointing me to the Sotomayor concurrence (which I hadn’t read at the time of this posting). Nothing to see here in this post. Everybody return to what you were doing.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “What Does Bullcoming Mean For the Military?

Comments are closed.