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State v. Romero, 365 P.3d 358 (Ariz. Super. Ct. June 1, 2016) [reverse lower court’s decision re defense expert]

Case (cite)
State v. Romero, 365 P.3d 358 (Ariz. Super. Ct. June 1, 2016) [reverse lower court's decision re defense expert]
Type of proceeding
Type of claim
Type of claim (second claim)
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
Dr. Ralph Haber
Summary of reasons for ruling
the lower court improperly focused on whether the expert was qualified in firearms identification; rather, the issue should be whether the expert was qualified in experimental design and he was. Because the expert witnesses may helpfully educate the fact-finder about general principles without considering the facts of a particular case, the defense expert's lack of experience in performing toolmark analysis may only affect the weight of his testimony but not bar it from being admissible.
The jurisdiction’s standard for expert admissibility at the time – list all that apply: (Frye), (Daubert), (Post-2000 Rule 702), (Other)
Rule 702
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).
Expert at issue here had not been offered until after the evidentiary hearing allowing Powell's testimony
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


This is the only defense expert case out of all fifty firearm cases. The defense introduced expert on experimental design – the purpose of retaining this expert is to show jury that the methods underlying toolmark analysis are not based on the scientific method but instead reflect subjective determinations by the examiner conducting the analysis




The defense expert in question has relevant education experience and operates a consulting business through which he analyzes forensic evidence methods and makes himself available to testify about their consistency with accepted methods of scientific experimentation.