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People v. Ornelas-Licano, 2020 WL 1802798 (Colo. App. 2020)

Case (cite)
People v. Ornelas-Licano, 2020 WL 1802798 (Colo. App. 2020)
Type of proceeding
Type of claim
Expert evidence ruling reversing or affirming on appeal:
What was the ruling?
Error to Admit; Remand
Type of evidence at issue:
Ballistics trajectory
Defense or Prosecution Expert
Name of expert(s) who were the subject of the ruling
Daniel Gilliam
Summary of reasons for ruling
The court ruled that the trial court abused its discretion by permitting the expert in qeustion to testify as an expert on the relationship btw the shape of a bullet hole and where the shot came from as well as the result of his windshield test. Because (1) the expert's experience is not directly related to the subject of his testimony; (2) there is nothing other than the expert's own assertion to support his testimony's underlying theory (e.g. no peer review, no report of similar experiments, no evidence supporting that it is scientifically sound/generally accepted in scientific community etc.).
The jurisdiction’s standard for expert admissibility at the time – list all that apply: (Frye), (Daubert), (Post-2000 Rule 702), (Other)
CRE 702, 403
Did lower court hold a hearing
Names of prosecution expert(s) two testified at hearing
Daniel Gilliam
Names of defense expert(s) who testified at hearing (or None).
Doesn't give name
Discussion of 2009 NAS Report (NAS2009) or 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)
(2); (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


In sum, the Colorado Supreme Court has consistently required more than the expert’s own assertions to support the required finding that the expert’s underlying theory is reliable. That showing was not made in this case.


The court found the error was not harmless: Moreover, “[t]here are special concerns attendant to law enforcement expert testimony.” . . . For example, “there is something qualitatively different about law enforcement expertise from other forms of expertise” because “[l]aw enforcement officers … are experts in whodunit, and there is a danger that a jury will perceive their area of expertise as solving crimes and determining guilt or innocence.”


This is not firearms identification.