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BlogsPublications | June 2, 2017
2 minute read

COA: Hearsay laboratory reports welcome at preliminary examination

In People v. Parker, No. 335541, the Court of Appeals held that a district court can admit a hearsay laboratory report during a preliminary examination under the statutory hearsay exception found in MCL 766.11b(1). Prior to this decision, this statute appeared to be in conflict with MCR 6.110(C) and MRE 802, which precludes introduction of a laboratory report as hearsay without exception. Under MCR 6.110(C), the district court must conduct a preliminary examination “in accordance with the Michigan Rules of Evidence” and MRE 802 prohibits a district court from admitting hearsay evidence absent an exception in the rules of evidence. However, MCL 766.11b(1) indicates that “[t]he rules of evidence apply at the preliminary examination except” that the hearsay rule does not preclude certain laboratory reports from being admitted. Therefore, a court rule conflicted with a statute.  However, because MCL 766.11b(1) serves as a substantive rule of evidence, not a procedural one, the statutory exception takes precedence over MCR 6.110(C).

Under Michigan’s Constitution, a court rule will trump a statute when the two conflict on a procedural matter, but must yield to legislative statutes with respect to substantive matters. The court first determined that a conflict did exist between MCL 766.11b(1) and MCR 6.110(C), because case law makes it clear that laboratory reports prepared in anticipation of litigation generally are not admissible under the hearsay exceptions of MRE 803(6) or (8). In 2014, the Michigan Legislature passed MCL 766.11b(1), which provided that contrary to the Michigan Rules of Evidence, laboratory reports cannot be excluded under the hearsay prohibition during preliminary examinations.

Next, in determining that MCL 766.11b(1) addresses substantive evidence, the Court of Appeals relied on past Supreme Court examples of procedural rules of evidence and substantive rules of evidence. Examples of procedural rules included rules designed to let the jury have evidence freed from confusion and fraud. Because MCL 766.11b(1) only applies during a preliminary examination, the statute did not implicate a rule designed to protect juries. Examples of substantive rules included rules governing the admission of expert medical testimony and admission of other-acts evidence against minors, which aligned with the current case. Further, the court recognized that in passing MCL 766.11b, the legislature had a legitimate policy reason of reducing the number of times a laboratory professional must testify in a criminal case. Therefore, MCL 766.11b serves as a substantive rule of evidence, not a procedural one, and the statutory hearsay exception in MCL 766.11b takes precedence over MCR 6.110(C).