State v. Williams, 367 N.C. 64 (Jun. 27, 2013)

Reversing the Court of Appeals, the court held that any confrontation clause violation that occurred with regard to the use of substitute analyst testimony was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt where the defendant testified that the substance at issue was cocaine. When cocaine was discovered near the defendant, he admitted to the police that a man named Chris left it there for him to sell and that he had sold some that day. The substance was sent to the crime lab for analysis. Chemist DeeAnne Johnson performed the analysis of the substance. By the time of trial however, Johnson no longer worked for the crime lab. Thus, the State presented Ann Charlesworth of the crime lab as an expert in forensic chemistry to identify the substance at issue. Over objection, she identified the substance as cocaine. The trial court also admitted, for the purpose of illustrating Charlesworth’s testimony, Johnson’s lab reports. At trial, the defendant reiterated what he had told the police. The defendant was convicted and he appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that Charlesworth’s substitute analyst testimony violated the defendant’s confrontation rights. The NC Supreme Court held that even if admission of the testimony and exhibits was error, it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because the defendant himself testified that the seized substance was cocaine.