Friday, January 16, 2004

6th Circuit Upholds Criminalist Testimony on Ballistics, Footprints

The Sixth Circuit has upheld the admissibility of a multi-tasking criminalist who offered expert testimony both on ballistics and on a latent footprint. The defendant raised no objection at trial, and so review was for plain error. The criminalist reached his ballistics opinion via "firing pin comparison." The government did not establish any substantial foundation for the reliability of that method, but on plain error review, the panel upheld the testimony, because the criminalist did establish his training and experience, and did at least identify the test he performed. His footprint testimony was upheld on the grounds that the expert explained his experience, described the methods he used, and vouched for their general forensic acceptance. See United States v. Rodgers, No. 02-3975 (6th Cir. Jan. 6, 2004) (Krupansky, Moore, & Rogers, JJ.) (unpublished).
Fed. R. Evid. 702: If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.