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Commonwealth v. Harrison, 177 N.E.3d 190 (Mass. App. Ct. 2021)

Case (cite)
Commonwealth v. Harrison, 177 N.E.3d 190 (Mass. App. Ct. 2021)
Year
2021
State
Massachusetts
Type of proceeding
Appellate
Type of claim
Evidentiary
Expert evidence ruling reversing or affirming on appeal:
Admitted
What was the ruling?
Correct to Admit
Type of evidence at issue:
Ballistics; firearm verification
Defense or Prosecution Expert
Prosecution
Name of expert(s) who were the subject of the ruling
N/A
Summary of reasons for ruling
Here, the jury were told that the expert's examination of a firearm invariably entailed a safety check and test-firing, provided the firearm appeared safe to use. The expert averred that he examined the shotgun, and based on that examination, he concluded that it met the legal definition of a firearm. A jury could reasonably infer that, because the expert's firearm examination process entailed test-firing to assess functionality, the expert concluded that the shotgun met the legal definition of a firearm only because it successfully test-fired. In viewing all the evidence and permissible inferences in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, we believe this qualifies as “some competent evidence,” id., sufficient to permit “any rational trier of fact … [to find] the essential elements of [count 8] beyond a reasonable doubt.
The jurisdiction’s standard for expert admissibility at the time – list all that apply: (Frye), (Daubert), (Post-2000 Rule 702), (Other)
N/A
Did lower court hold a hearing
Y
Names of prosecution expert(s) two testified at hearing
N/A
Names of defense expert(s) who testified at hearing (or None).
None
Discussion of 2009 NAS Report (NAS2009) or PCAST report (PCAST)
N
Discussion of error rates / reliability
N
Frye Ruling
N
Limiting testimony ruling
N
Language imposed by court to limit testimony
N/A
Ruling based in prior precedent / judicial notice
N
Daubert ruling emphasizing – which factors – (list 1-5)
N/A
Ruling on qualifications of expert
N
Ruling on 702(a) – the expert will help / assist the jury
N
Ruling on 702(b) – the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data
N
Ruling on 702(c) – the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods
N
Ruling on 702(d) – reliable application of principles and methods to the facts of the case
N

Notes

Not a ruling on 702, but some discussion of the role of expert testimony in assisting the jury: A jury could reasonably infer that, because the expert’s firearm examination process entailed test-firing to assess functionality, the expert concluded that the shotgun met the legal definition of a firearm only because it successfully test-fired. In viewing all the evidence and permissible inferences in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, we believe this qualifies as “some competent evidence,” id., sufficient to permit “any rational trier of fact … [to find] the essential elements of [count 8] beyond a reasonable doubt.”