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Confrontation Clause Jurisprudence: The Challenge of Justice Alito’s Williams Plurality and What, If Anything, It Means
By Justin J. McShane, Joshua R. Auriemma and Matthew Koch
Accurately synthesizing a rule from a plurality opinion has been a complex undertaking ever since the turn of the 18th century when Chief Justice Marshall abandoned the practice of seriatim opinions to unite a politically weak Supreme Court. Although one can argue that the current practice of fragmented opinions has improved the standing of the Court, the precedential value of nonmajority rationales is largely protean. To those ends, this article considers the history of plurality opinions, tracking the jurisprudence of such opinions over hundreds of years, and then suggests what the Williams case means for criminal defense attorneys raising Confrontation Clause objections in light of this speciously adverse case.
The Supreme Court recently decided Williams v. Illinois1 — the latest in a string of cases considering the role of the Confrontation Clause as it pertains to forensic evidence. The issue in Williams revolved around whether an expert witness could opine that the defendant’s DNA
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