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Pritchett v. Skipper, 2020 WL 3001960 (W.D. Mich. 2020)

Case (cite)
Pritchett v. Skipper, 2020 WL 3001960 (W.D. Mich. 2020)
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?
Type of evidence at issue:
Firearms identification
Defense or Prosecution Expert
Name of expert(s) who were the subject of the ruling
Gary Latham
Summary of reasons for ruling
Petitioner argues in his federal habeas proceeding that he is entitled to relief because the expert should not have been permitted to give opinion testimony on firearms because it is not scientifically valid and that the expert was not qualified to give this opinion. The court states that Petitioner cannot show that he was denied the constitutional right to a fair trial because firearms testimony by experts is widely accepted. The court explains that other courts often limit the testimony and prevent experts from testifying to any degree of certainty but that Latham's testimony was consistent with limitations often imposed (he testified that the bullet recovered was "consistent" with being fired from a revolver). The court also notes that the Michigan Court of Appeals had previously found Latham to be qualified as an expert, so the argument that he was not qualified was unpersuasive.Petitioner also argued prosecutorial misconduct for presenting Latham's testimony. The court holds that because the testimony was properly admitted, the claim raises no issue on which relief can be granted.
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


“Fundamental fairness does not, however, “require a perfect trial,” Clemmons, 34 F.3d at 358, and courts have defined those violations which violate fundamental fairness “very narrowly.” Bugh, 329 F.3d at 512. State court evidentiary rulings do not offend due process unless they violate “some principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental.” Ibid. Whether the admission of evidence constitutes a denial of fundamental fairness “turns upon whether the evidence is material in the sense of a crucial, critical highly significant factor.” . . . To the extent Petitioner argues that admission of the evidence in question violated Michigan law or rules of evidence, such is not a basis for relief in this Court. Moreover, Petitioner cannot establish that admission of this evidence violated his constitutional right to a fair trial. Ballistics and firearms analysis testimony is widely accepted as a subject on which a properly qualified expert can testify.”