Last week CAAF granted review in this Marine Corps case:

No. 19-0377/MC. U.S. v. Nicholas S. Baas. CCA 201700318. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is granted on the following issues:

I. DID ADMISSION OF AN ALLEGEDLY POSITIVE DIATHERIX LABORATORIES TEST FOR GONORRHEA WITHOUT TESTIMONY AT TRIAL OF AN WITNESS FROM DIATHERIX, VIOLATE THE SIXTH AMENDMENT CONFRONTATION CLAUSE?

II. DID THE LOWER COURT ABUSE ITS DISCRETION IN ADMITTING AN ALLEGED POSITIVE DIATHERIX TEST RESULT FOR GONORRHEA IN A CHILD’S RECTAL SWAB-WHERE DIATHRIX FAILED TO FOLLOW ITS OWN PROCEDURES AND THE RESULT WAS OF NEAR ZERO PROBATIVE VALUE?

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The CCA’s opinion is available here.

The appellant was convicted of numerous offenses including rape of a child. The evidence supporting the rape conviction included a positive test of the child for gonorrhea; a sexually-transmitted disease that the appellant told military law enforcement he had and that he encouraged them to test the child for in the belief that the test would exonerate him. Swabs were taken from the child and sent to Diatherix Laboratories, where a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) revealed the positive result. But the pediatrician who took the swabs explained that the NAAT was a screening test that was susceptible to false positives, and that urethral and rectal culture tests should be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Those confirmatory tests were not performed. Rather, the child was treated with antibiotics, rendering further testing impossible. Nevertheless, the prosecution moved to introduce the NAAT result, and the parties litigated its admissibility. The military judge ultimately ruled that the result was admissible because the test was reliable and it was for the members to determine what weight to give the result.

The CCA considered and rejected the first granted issue, concluding that the Diatherix lab report was nontestimonial (and so could be admitted as business records) because the test was conducted primarily for treatment (not law enforcement), the report contained only unambiguous factual matters, and the report was not primarily created for the purpose of introducing it as evidence at trial.

The CCA’s opinion also references the underlying claim in the second granted issue – that the Diatherix laboratory failed to follow its own procedures – in a larger analysis of the military judge’s ruling that admitted the test result. The CCA affirmed the military judge’s ruling admitting the result.

6 Responses to “CAAF grants review in Marine Corps case challenging the admission of a gonorrhea screening test”

  1. gc says:

    Hyperlink in text is to a different opinion. 

  2. Zachary D Spilman says:

    Corrected. Sorry about that.

  3. Sir Visdis Crediting says:

    A test performed at the behest of Appellant, who believed it would exonerate (also a LE purpose) him, and which would not have been performed, it seems, but for the Appellant’s urging was for business purposes? C’mon now.

  4. Zachary D Spilman says:

    According to the CCA’s opinion, “upon learning of the alleged abuse and the fact that the appellant had STIs, TB [the child’s mother] took GB [the child] to his normal pediatricians at Coastal Children’s Clinic,” where the swabs were taken. Slip op. at 4.

    So it seems that the tests were not performed for exoneration, but rather were a preemptive move by the child’s mother to determine if the child was infected after she learned about the allegations.

  5. stewie says:

    I have no problem with the test being admitted provided the panel is also told about the limitations of the test.
    False positives are certainly something to know about, but what are the odds that the child will false positive for the same STD that the accused had? And it certainly makes sense that they aren’t going to leave the child infected to get confirmatory testing.

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