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State v. Smoot, 2018 WL 4699046 (Tenn. Crim. App.)

Case (cite)
State v. Smoot, 2018 WL 4699046 (Tenn. Crim. App.)
Type of proceeding
Type of claim
Type of claim (second claim)
Expert evidence ruling reversing or affirming on appeal:
What was the ruling?
Correct to Admit
Type of evidence at issue:
Firearms identification
Defense or Prosecution Expert
Name of expert(s) who were the subject of the ruling
Steve Scott
Summary of reasons for ruling
Because (1) the underlying AFTE theory, though challenged, was never disproved; (2) the expert's analysis was peer-reviewed; (3) the expert provided studies on error rate; (4) the expert based his conclusion on his extensive experience of making ballistics comparisons and his recent tour to firearms manufactor, the testimony was reliable and was correct to admit.
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
Rule 703
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


“After determining the witness is qualified to serve as an expert on the subject of his or her testimony, the trial court must ensure the expert’s opinions are sufficiently reliable to be admitted into evidence, that is whether the basis for the witness’s opinion, i.e. testing, research, studies, or experience-based observations, adequately support the expert’s conclusion” This ensures there is not a significant analytical gap between the expert’s opinion and the data on which the opinion is based.




** compare Tenn courts with Ill courts


Tenn courts do a modified Daubert – have their separate list of non-exclusive factors. See McDaniel, 955 S.W.2d at 263. These factors “are not always appropriate for application by the trial court where an expert’s conclusions are based on extensive and specialized experience rather than traditional scientific evaluation.”: (1) whether scientific evidence has been tested and the methodology with which it has been tested; (2) whether the evidence has been subjected to peer review or publication; (3) whether a potential rate of error is known; (4) whether, as formerly required by Frye, the evidence is generally accepted in the scientific community; and (5) whether the expert’s research in the field has been conducted independent of litigation. – the last factor does not weigh much when it comes to forensic science


on reliability/error rate: the expert in this case introduced some separate studies on reproducibility/repeatability of firearm toolmarks.


The court noted that the AFTE theory, though challenged, has never been disproven.