University of New Hampshire

School of Law

School of Law

U.S. Supreme Court Issues Reversal In Appellate Defender Case

This week, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari and remanded a case by UNH Law’s Appellate Defender Program, Dilboy v. New Hampshire, in light of another recent decision that also centered around the Sixth Amendment right of confrontation.

The decision is a victory for the school’s Appellate Defender Program, which is jointly run by the law school and the New Hampshire Public Defender. It proves, said Deputy Chief Appellate Defender David Rothstein, “the tenacity of the lawyers here and how committed we are to our clients.”

Anthony Dilboy is a Rochester, N.H., man convicted in 2008 for killing two people when his vehicle ran a red light. At the time, prosecutors said, he was under the influence of drugs or suffering from heroin withdrawal.

At issue, according to the Appellate Defender Program, is how that evidence was presented at the trial. The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” In this case, instead of calling the lab analysts at trial, the state called a lab supervisor to convey the results of testing done on Dilboy's blood. Without the ability to confront the actual analysts, it was impossible for Dilboy to expose any mistakes or bias they might have had that could have affected the test results.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Dilboy actually stemmed from another case it had decided the week before, Bullcoming v. New Mexico, in which the witness who provided lab results during the trial had not conducted the blood test. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled, the Confrontation Clause had been violated. This week, the court ruled that “in light of” the Bullcoming v. New Mexico decision, it granted certiorari to Dilboy v. New Hampshire, vacated the earlier judgment by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and remanded the case for further consideration.

Dilboy’s lawyer, Stephanie Hausman of the Appellate Defender Program, said, “It has been exciting to work on an issue that is highly relevant in many serious cases and also of interest to the Court, as it refines the parameters of how forensic evidence can be admitted consistent with the Confrontation Clause.”

The case will be remanded for further proceedings, which may include a new trial. This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear another case by the Appellate Defender Program, Perry v. New Hampshire.