Texas Stamp


PD-1079-19 05/06/2020

“Whether the majority opinion conflicts with Burch v. State, when the majority opinion affirmed the trial court’s admission of DNA testimony over Appellant’s Confrontation Clause objection?”

An out-of-state lab called Reliagene processed the victim’s rape kit. This involved producing computer-generated data and a DNA profile. The case went unsolved for about fifteen years. Molina provided police with a DNA sample and this led to a match. Molina’s known DNA sample was processed by a Houston lab, where an analyst generated Molina’s known DNA profile and, relying on Reliagene’s data, generated a comparable DNA profile from the rape kit.

At Molina’s sexual assault trial, the State called only the analyst from the Houston lab. Molina objected that this violated his right to confrontation. The analyst explained that he did not know the protocols or standards that Reliagene used but that the lab was accredited and that their report showed proper evidence-preservation and chain-of-custody standards had been followed.  The trial court excluded the Reliagene report but permitted the Houston analyst to testify—in reliance on Reliagene’s computer-generated data—that Molina could not be excluded as a contributor to the DNA from the rape kit. Molina was convicted.

On appeal, Molina raised the same confrontation issue. A majority of the court of appeals rejected his claim. It held that Reliagene’s data was not testimonial and thus there was no confrontation violation despite the lack of testimony from the analyst who accumulated the data. The dissent would have held that the DNA evidence was erroneously admitted through a surrogate witness.

Molina compares his case to Burch v. State, 401 S.W.3d 634 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013), highlighting that, as in that case, he could not confront the analyst who actually performed the tests or supervised their execution and thus was unable to explore areas of potential corruption or misconduct. He argues it was pointless to exclude Reliagene’s report when the Houston analyst was able to testify about its contents.         

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