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State v. Martinez, 198 P.2d 256 (N.M. 1948)

Case (cite)
State v. Martinez, 198 P.2d 256 (N.M. 1948)
Year
1948
State
New Mexico
Type of proceeding
Appellate
Type of claim
Evidentiary
Expert evidence ruling reversing or affirming on appeal:
Excluded
What was the ruling?
Error to Admit; Remand
Type of evidence at issue:
Firearms identification
Defense or Prosecution Expert
Prosecution
Name of expert(s) who were the subject of the ruling
Dr. Rife
Summary of reasons for ruling
Defendant objected to the expert stating his conclusions as facts rather than opinions. The court agreed that because ballstics experts have varying ability their testimony should be limited to opinion testimony and that the district court erred in allowing the expert to testify to facts. (see notes for the testimony)
The jurisdiction’s standard for expert admissibility at the time – list all that apply: (Frye), (Daubert), (Post-2000 Rule 702), (Other)
N/A
Did lower court hold a hearing
N/A
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) or PCAST report (PCAST)
N/A
Discussion of error rates / reliability
N
Frye Ruling
N
Limiting testimony ruling
Y
Language imposed by court to limit testimony
"a witness skilled in the science of forensic ballistics could testify only as to his opinion, although it may be stated as his conclusion from experiments with the gun, bullets and shells in evidence."
Ruling based in prior precedent / judicial notice
Y (judicial notice on firearms identification)
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
Y
Ruling on 702(d) – reliable application of principles and methods to the facts of the case
N

Notes

“The general fact of ballistics is that no two missiles discharged from the same or different firearms bear the same trace-marks. From this fact, when conceded, we can infer that the marks on a particular missile, when examined with suitable methods, indicate the firearm from which it was discharged. This general truth was until recently unknown and disputable; judicial opinion now recognizes it as a conceded fact of which judicial notice may be taken.”

 

We are satisfied that modern science has established that this class of ballistics is almost, if not an exact science; yet those who testify as ballistic experts have varying ability and their testimony should be confined, like that of experts generally, to opinion testimony.

 

“It may be true that such witnesses as Colonel Goddard, who testified in Evans v. Commonwealth, 230 Ky. 411, 19 S.W.2d 1091, 66 A.L.R. 360, and other reported cases, are so skilled in the science of forensic ballistics that the chance of error is negligible. But the rule is general, and must apply to all witnesses permitted by trial courts to testify as experts of skilled in that science. The belief of a witness that his skill is so transcendent that an error in judgment is impossible, may itself *351 be false or a mistake, assuming that the science is exact.”

 

Facts testified to by witness: “The witness stated without qualification, in answer to questions (1) that he could identify the gun from which the death bullet was fired; (2) ‘They (the death bullet and test bullet) were fired from Colt 25 caliber automatic pistol No. 92031’ (defendant’s gun); (3) ‘I will state positively that the evidence bullet (death bullet) was fired out of State’s Exhibit No. 2, this gun,’ (defendant’s gun); (4) ‘Both the evidence shells and the test shells were fired from *350 Colt automatic 25 caliber pistol No. 92031.’ (Defendant’s gun).”