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Bowling v. Haeberlin, 2012 WL 4498647 (E.D. Ky. 2012)

Case (cite)
Bowling v. Haeberlin, 2012 WL 4498647 (E.D. Ky. 2012)
Type of proceeding
Federal habeas corpus
Type of claim
Brady v. Maryland
Type of claim (second claim)
Expert evidence ruling reversing or affirming on appeal:
What was the ruling?
Correct to Admit
Type of evidence at issue:
Firearms identification
Defense or Prosecution Expert
Name of expert(s) who were the subject of the ruling
Donald Havekost
Summary of reasons for ruling
Defendant claims a Brady violation for failing to disclose the limitations of CBLA testimony and that his death sentence should have been vacated based on the inadmissibility of CBLA or the Brady violation. Defendant argues that the expert failed to disclose that the retail distribution of bullets could lead to bullets from different boxes having the same composition and that an article authored by the expert should have been disclosed, and that the database tracking bullet composition was more limited in size than disclosed. The court holds that the article, if anything, supports the reliability of CLBA by noting its limitations. Further, the court held that although defendant could have used the articles to attempt to impeach the expert, the Kentucky Supreme Court did not unreasonably apply Brady by holding that there was no constitutional vioaltion. The court reasons that although the first two Brady prongs are satisfied, defendant ultimately was not prejudiced by the failure to dislcose the limitations of CBLA and the impeachment evidence. The limitations would have spoken to the weight of the testimony, not the admissibility, and the articles did not completely discredit CBLA altogether. Further, this claim alone does not cause enough prejudice.
The jurisdiction’s standard for expert admissibility at the time – list all that apply: (Frye), (Daubert), (Post-2000 Rule 702), (Other)
Second standard
Did lower court hold a hearing
Names of prosecution expert(s) two testified at hearing
Names of defense expert(s) who testified at hearing (or None).
Discussion of 2009 NAS Report (NAS2009)
Discussion of 2016 PCAST report (PCAST)
Discussion of error rates / reliability
Frye Ruling
Limiting testimony ruling
Language imposed by court to limit testimony
Ruling based in prior precedent / judicial notice
Daubert ruling emphasizing – which factors – (list 1-5)
Ruling on qualifications of expert
Ruling on 702(a) – the expert will help / assist the jury
Ruling on 702(b) – the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data
Ruling on 702(c) – the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods
Ruling on 702(d) – reliable application of principles and methods to the facts of the case


Note: The method at issue here was comparative bullet lead analysis that compares the metallurgical analysis of th lead in the bullets. Here, the expert used this method to link the bullets from the various crime scenes with bullets from the ammunition box at defendant’s hosue




Note: This was a Brady violation claim, so it was not decided under 702, but did speak to the reliability of the methods.


Havekost’s 1991 study also did not completely discredit the CBLA evidence. On the contrary, the study emphasized that CBLA could produce “forensically significant” results linking a suspect, weapon, and victim. . . . even if Bowling had known about the 1991 study and used it to impeach Havekost, the prosecutor could have rehabilitated him with the conclusions supporting CBLA. And to the extent that Havekost’s study did cast doubt on the utility of CBLA techniques, that doubt was already present in the scientific literature. If a defendant can obtain information through “minimal investigation,” Brady does not require the government to disclose it. . . . Admittedly, the government’s obligation to disclose may be higher when its witness has authored a study casting doubt on his research methods. But by the time of Bowling’s trial, criminal defendants had been attacking the reliability of CBLA evidence for more than a decade. . . . Other metallurgical experts could have testified to the same flaws in CBLA at Bowling’s trial, regardless of whether they had consulted Havekost’s 1991 study.


Likewise, the true size of the FBI database would have had little effect on the jury’s verdict. Havekost claimed the database had “tens of thousands” of rounds, 21 T.E. 3121, when in reality in had fewer than 13,000, see R. 1 at 264. But the fact that none of the bullets from the Smith and Hensley shootings matched the FBI database was relatively unimportant. Havekost’s chief finding was that the bullets used in the murders and the Rockcastle Sunoco shooting shared the same chemical composition as the bullets in Bowling’s ammunition box. Bowling’s argument is akin to criticizing a fingerprint expert’s testimony that prints at the scene matched the defendant’s fingers by pointing out that the expert misstated the number of prints the police department has on file. Information about the FBI database was therefore insufficiently material to undermine confidence in the jury’s verdict.