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State v. Legnani, 951 A.2d 674 (App. Ct. Conn. 2008)

Case (cite)
State v. Legnani, 951 A.2d 674 (App. Ct. Conn. 2008)
Year
2008
State
Connecticut
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:
Firearms identification
Defense or Prosecution Expert
Prosecution
Name of expert(s) who were the subject of the ruling
Edward Jachimowicz
Summary of reasons for ruling
Defendant claimed the court erred in denying a Porter hearing to determine whether the firearms testimony was relevant and supported by valid methodology. The court held that the trial courts ruling on the admissibility of the evidence was not an abuse of discretion. The court held that the defendant failed to show that toolmark identification was an "innovative scientific technique" and therefore Porter did not apply here. The court upheld the lower court's conclusion that toolmark and ballistics evidence is so well established that it does not require a Porter hearing because there was "ample evidence" in the record to support the conclusion.
The jurisdiction’s standard for expert admissibility at the time – list all that apply: (Frye), (Daubert), (Post-2000 Rule 702), (Other)
Daubert
Did lower court hold a hearing
Y
Names of prosecution expert(s) two testified at hearing
James Stephenson
Names of defense expert(s) who testified at hearing (or None).
Discussion of 2009 NAS Report (NAS2009) or PCAST report (PCAST)
N/A
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
Y (not explicit, but does not review because "well established")
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

Note: The court failed to address the Defedant’s reliability arguments: “The defendant argues that Jachimowicz’ testimony regarding the matching of cartridges to magazines exclusively on the basis of magazine marks should have been subjected to Porter scrutiny because it is not generally accepted in the scientific community. Furthermore, the defendant argues that when a subjective methodology is applied, as it was in the present case, the court must determine whether the principles underlying the particular procedure were applied properly to the facts of the case. Additionally, the defendant argues that even if the methodology used in this case was generally accepted, it was subjective, and, therefore, the court had to determine whether it was applied in a reliable manner. Finally, the defendant argues that the lack of recorded methodology and Jachimowicz’ failure to record the type of tests he had performed *419 rendered his testimony “incapable of assisting the jury in any meaningful way **687 because [it] could not independently assess whether his methods were reliable and, thus, his ultimate conclusions valid.””
“The state argues, and we agree, that the defendant failed to establish that the tool mark identification evidence involved an “innovative scientific technique” and, therefore, that Porter does not even apply. In State v. Porter, 241 Conn. 57, 698 A.2d 739 (1997) (en banc), cert. denied, 523 U.S. 1058, 118 S.Ct. 1384, 140 L.Ed.2d 645 (1998), our Supreme Court held that “scientific evidence should be subjected to a flexible test, with differing factors that are applied on a case-by-case basis, to determine the reliability of the scientific evidence.””

 

In the present case, the court found that it did not have to conduct a Porter hearing because the scientific principles of ballistics and firearms analysis are well established. Furthermore, the court held that “[t]ool marking is clearly a science and technology that can be measured, photographed, calibrated and enlarged.” As a result, the court found the evidence both reliable and relevant. In his brief, the defendant attempts to distinguish the process of tool mark identification that involves magazine marks from the general field of tool mark and firearm identification. The court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the tool marking identification involving magazine marks is reliable and relevant as a part of the broader field of tool mark and firearm identification. There was ample evidence in the record to justify the court’s conclusion. On cross-examination, Stephenson stated that “[t]here’s only one method used, scientific method that we’ve all practiced and used within the field of firearms and tool mark identification, and that’s the comparison of two sets or more of random marks placed upon the contoured surfaces to compare those to find an agreement, a sufficient agreement between those two surfaces to make an individualization.” Furthermore, he stated that “[w]e all follow the same basic theory that an individual tool mark can be specified to an individual tool once we find that pattern agreement upon those surfaces of those two surfaces after we’ve made a conclusion of looking at those for the relative spatial relationship, size and number and quantity of those striae that are upon those surfaces.” Finally, Stephenson testified that “[t]he firearm is a subcategory of tool mark identification. The firearm now becomes a tool. The objects that come—that they come in contact with are the unknown or what you’re trying to identify back to the tool, i.e., the bullet to the barrel, the cartridge casing to the magazine, the cartridge case to the firearm, the breach, the extractor, the ejector, the firing pin. Those all become tools that come in contact with those surfaces. And it’s all based on an identification of those unique patterns of striated or impressed marks upon those surfaces.” Stephenson’s testimony reveals that identifying marks made on the magazine by the cartridge casings is merely a subset of the science of firearm and tool mark identification, which has been well established and admissible evidence under prior case law.