Manslaughter conviction upheld by Miss. high court

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled a Panola County judge erred in allowing prosecutors to use a Crime Lab report without a supporting witness but the mistake didn’t deny Derrick Burdette a fair trial.

Burdette was convicted of manslaughter in 2012. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the 2011 fatal shooting of Herman Smith in Batesville.

Prosecutors said Smith was shot Jan. 26, 2011, while he sat in his car at Still Trailer Park, located in west Batesville. Prosecutors said Smith lived long enough to identify his attacker.

The trial judge, according to the court record, allowed a police officer to testify about Crime Lab report on the gun and bullets.

No individual involved with the testing of the bullets or with the Crime Lab testified at trial.

The Supreme Court said the trial judge erred in allowing the Crime Lab report into evidence.

“The analysts were not found to be unavailable, and Burdette had no prior opportunity for cross-examination. The admission of the document without live testimony from an individual involved in the analysis constituted a violation of the Confrontation Clause,” wrote Justice Ann Lamar.

However, Lamar said the error was ultimately harmless because prosecutors had a witness who saw Burdette shoot Smith and had a confession from Burdette.

Lamar said the only issue left to the jury was whether to believe Burdette’s claim of self-defense, which it did not.