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People v. Cabrera, 2020 WL 3496750 (Ct. App. Cal. 2020)

Case (cite)
People v. Cabrera, 2020 WL 3496750 (Ct. App. Cal. 2020)
Type of proceeding
Type of claim
Type of claim (second claim)
Expert evidence ruling reversing or affirming on appeal:
What was the ruling?
Correct to Admit; No Error due to Harmless Error
Type of evidence at issue:
Firearms identification
Defense or Prosecution Expert
Name of expert(s) who were the subject of the ruling
Thomas Matsudaira
Summary of reasons for ruling
Appellant argues the trial court abused its discretion and violated due process by allowing firearms expert to testify to 100 percent certainty because the field is not sufficiently reliable. The court holds that CA precedent shows that firearms identification is sufficiently reliable under Kelly. The court further declines to address limiting testimony because regardless of whether the testimony would have been limited, the error was harmless due to other evidence.
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


“Expert testimony on firearms identification is widely accepted in courtrooms throughout the country. (4 Faigman et al., Modern Scientific Evidence, The Law and Science of Expert Testimony (2014–2015 ed.), section 35:3 [noting such testimony “is admissible in every American jurisdiction.”] Indeed, the California Supreme Court ruled 10 years ago that the process of comparing toolmarks for the purpose of determining whether a test-fired bullet and a crime-scene bullet were fired from the same gun had become such a well-established technique that it does not require proof of reliability under People v. Kelly (1976) 17 Cal.3d 24, 130 Cal.Rptr. 144, 549 P.2d 1240. (People v. Cowan (2010) 50 Cal.4th 401, 468-470, 113 Cal.Rptr.3d 850, 236 P.3d 1074.) Not only is that process generally accepted in the scientific community, it is readily understandable from the jury’s prospective because it merely isolates physical evidence for comparison, akin to fingerprint analysis and other types of forensic pattern matching techniques.”