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The trial court did not violate defendant's right to confrontation in a drug case by
admitting expert testimony based on chemical analyses conducted by someone other than the
testifying expert, because: (1) defendant had an opportunity to cross-examine the expert as
provided under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004); (2) an expert may base an opinion
on tests performed by others in the field; and (3) the analyses on which the expert testimony was
based were not hearsay.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Special Deputy Attorney
General Amar Majmundar, for the State.
J. Clark Fischer, for the defendant-appellant.
The admission into evidence of expert opinion based upon information not itself admissible into evidence does not violate the Sixth Amendment guarantee of the right of an accused to confront his accusers where the expert is available for cross- examination. State v. Huffstetler, 312 N.C. 92, 108, 322 S.E.2d 110, 120-21 (1984) . In this case, Defendant contends that expert testimony based on analyses conducted by someone other than the testifying expert violated his right to confrontation under the rationale of Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 158 L. Ed. 2d 177 (2004) . Because Defendant had an opportunity to cross-examine theexpert, and because the analyses on which the expert testimony was based were not hearsay , we affirm the trial court's admission of the expert testimony.
The facts pertinent to the resolution of the issues on appeal show that under a search warrant issued in November 2002, the Cabarrus County Sheriff's Department searched Defendant's residence and found marijuana and a lock box containing drugs under Defendant's bed . Further, in an outbuilding, the police discovered additional drugs that appeared ready for distribution. Defendant's appeal does not challenge the constitutionality of the search of his residence or the propriety of seizing the evidence of drugs on the property.
In the course of the police investigation into Defendant's case, the various drugs found at Defendant's residence were sent to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation for analyses. At trial, Special Agent Aaron Joncich testified as an expert witness regarding the results of those analyses, which had been conducted by another analyst at the State Bureau of Investigation . A jury convicted Defendant of trafficking in opium, possession of Lortab, possession of Klonopin, and intentionally maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of keeping or selling controlled substances. The trial court arrested judgment with regard to maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of keeping or selling controlled substances . Defendant appealed.
In the case before us, after a recitation of
Agent Hamlin's professional credentials,
Agent Hamlin was tendered and accepted as an
expert in controlled substance analysis
without objection by defendant. Agent
Hamlin, after a thorough review of the
methodology undertaken by Agent Koontz,
relied on Agent Koontz's lab analysis in
forming her opinion that the white substance
was cocaine. Her opinion was based on data
reasonably relied upon by others in thefield. Carmon, 156 N.C. App. at 244, 576
S.E.2d at 737.
Jones, 2004 N.C. App. LEXIS 1655, at *10. In Jones as here, the defendant directed this Court to Crawford. However, this Court concluded that Crawford was not applicable because it is well established that an expert may base his or her opinion on tests performed by others in the field and defendant was given an opportunity to cross-examine Agent Hamlin as to the basis of her opinion. Id. at *11. This Court therefore found that there has been no violation of the defendant's right of confrontation. Id.
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