State v. Craven, 367 N.C. 51 (Jun. 27, 2013)

 The court held that admission of lab reports through the testimony of a substitute analyst (Agent Schell) violated the defendant’ confrontation clause rights where the testifying analyst did not give her own independent opinion, but rather gave “surrogate testimony” that merely recited the opinion of non-testifying testing analysts that the substances at issue were cocaine. Distinguishing Ortiz-Zape, the court held that here the State’s expert did not testify to an independent opinion obtained from the expert’s own analysis but rather offered impermissible surrogate testimony repeating testimonial out-of-court statements made by non-testifying analysts. With regard to the two lab reports at issue, the testifying expert was asked whether she agreed with the non-testifying analysts’ conclusions. When she replied in the affirmative, she was asked what the non-testifying analysts’ conclusions were and the underlying reports were introduced into evidence. The court concluded: “It is clear . . . that Agent Schell did not offer—or even purport to offer—her own independent analysis or opinion [of the] . . . samples. Instead, Agent Schell merely parroted [the non-testifying analysts’] . . . conclusions from their lab reports.” Noting that the lab reports contained the analysts’ certification prepared in connection with a criminal investigation or prosecution, the court easily determined that they were testimonial. The court went on to find that this conclusion did not result in error with regard to the defendant’s conspiracy to sell or deliver cocaine conviction. As to the defendant’s conviction for sale or delivery of cocaine, the six participating Justices were equally divided on whether the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Consequently, as to that charge the Court of Appeals’ decision holding that the error was reversible remains undisturbed and stands without precedential value. However, the court found that the Court of Appeals erroneously vacated the conviction for sale or delivery and that the correct remedy was a new trial.