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Melcher v. Holland, 2014 WL 31359 (N.D. Cal. 2014)

Case (cite)
Melcher v. Holland, 2014 WL 31359 (N.D. Cal. 2014)
Type of proceeding
Federal habeas corpus
Type of claim
Type of claim (second claim)
Due process
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
Gerald Smith
Summary of reasons for ruling
The court held that it was not objectively unreasonable for a Kelly hearing to be denied because firearms identification testimony is universally admissible and the testimony was highly relevant to show the defendant was the shooter. The court also held that the defendants due process rights were not violated by allowing the expert to testify to "practical certainty" or "so remote to be considered practically impossible" because it was not testifying to the "absolute exclusion" of all ofther firearms.
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


On limiting testimony: “Smith did not express a conclusion to the “absolute exclusion” of all other firearms, and did not express 100 percent certainty. He came very close to the line with the “practical certainty” and “so remote to be considered practically impossible” language. The trial court tempered the testimony somewhat with its admonition. Later instructions on how to evaluate expert testimony, including that the jurors must decide “whether information on which the expert relied was true and accurate,” and can disregard an opinion they find unbelievable, unreasonable or not supported by the evidence, further enforced the court’s admonition. In addition, the expert was tested by cross-examination, and appellant had the right to put on his own expert, but declined”