Michigan v. Jemison (Opinion - Leave Granted)Annotate this Case
Arthur Jemison was convicted by jury of first-degree sexual assault, comitted in 1996. The victim underwent a forensic examination in 1996, and evidence was collected for a rape kit at that time. But the rape kit was not analyzed until 2015. In 2015, samples from the kit were sent to a laboratory in Utah for testing and analysis. A forensic analyst at the lab concluded that a vaginal swab from the kit contained the DNA of at least one male donor. The Utah lab forwarded its report to the Michigan State Police (MSP) Forensic Science Division, where the sample was compared to DNA stored in a database. The MSP determined that there was an association between Jemison’s DNA and the DNA of the male donor identified by the lab as a contributor to the vaginal swab. Before trial, the prosecution moved to allow the analyst to testify via two-way, interactive video. Jemison objected, but the court granted the motion. At trial, Jemison renewed his objection before a new judge, but the trial court allowed the video testimony over the objection. Jemison appealed his conviction, arguing, in part, that his right of confrontation under the federal and state Constitutions was denied when the trial court allowed the lab analyst to testify via two-way, interactive video. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals concluded Jemison’s right of confrontation was adequately protected when the analyst testified via video because the video testimony allowed Jemison and the jury to observe the witness’s responses and reactions in real time and Jemison was able to cross-examine the witness. Although the Court of Appeals held that the trial court abused its discretion when it allowed the video testimony over Jemison’s objection in violation of MCR 6.006(C), it concluded that the error was harmless. The Michigan Supreme Court found the appellate court relied only on precedent that predated the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Crawford v. Washington, 541 US 36 (2004), "which transformed the Court's approach to confrontation rights." The Michigan Court found Crawford, in overruling the then-prevailing case law, shifted from a "reliability focus to a bright-line rule requiring a face-to-face encounter for testimonial evidence." Here, the Court ruled admitting the prosecution witness’s video testimony over the defendant’s objection violated defendant’s state and federal constitutional rights to confrontation. It therefore reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to that Court for further proceedings.