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State v. Williams, 2018 WL 3029012 (Ct. App. N.C. 2018)

Case (cite)
State v. Williams, 2018 WL 3029012 (Ct. App. N.C. 2018)
Year
2018
State
North Carolina
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
Eugene Bishop
Summary of reasons for ruling
Defendant argues that the trial court erred in allowing the expert to testify to an impermissible degree of certainty and that the testimony should have been limited or excluded. The court disagreed. The court states that the expert testifying that the bullet came from the gun he test fired was not the same as saying that it was absolute certainty or to the exclusion of all other firearms. The court also notes that defense counsel only asked a few questions, none of which went to the data or methods used. The court holds that court was not in error in failing to limit the testimony because the defendant did not object to the degree of certainty, the expert was subject to cross examination, and the defense counsel was the one using the words of certainty the defendant focused on. Finally, the defendant argues that it was impossible for the expert to draw relaible conclusions given the damage to the firearm. The court disagrees and holds that the expert explained how the damage affected his examination and provided details to the jury about his process.
The jurisdiction’s standard for expert admissibility at the time – list all that apply: (Frye), (Daubert), (Post-2000 Rule 702), (Other)
NC 702 (post 2011); Daubert
Did lower court hold a hearing
N
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
Discussion of error rates / reliability
N
Frye Ruling
N
Limiting testimony ruling
N (declined to hold the trial court was in error for failing to limit testimony)
Language imposed by court to limit testimony
N/A
Ruling based in prior precedent / judicial notice
N
Daubert ruling emphasizing – which factors – (list 1-5)
Reliability
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
Y

Notes

“At trial, Mr. Bishop testified that in his expert opinion, the recovered cartridge casings “were fired from the same gun that [he] test fired.” Mr. Bishop did not overstate his opinion by, for example, explicitly claiming absolute certainty, or a match to the exclusion of all other firearms in the world, or a total absence of subjective human judgment from his examination. And while Mr. Bishop did not qualify his opinion with “to a reasonable degree of certainty,” he also never uttered the words “unique as to each gun that’s made” or “exclusive identification”—two phrases defendant refers to extensively in his brief as the alleged claims of certainty that amounted to false overstatements of reliability. In fact, it was defense counsel, not Mr. Bishop, who chose to use the exact phrases defendant challenges on appeal.”