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United States v. Hicks, 389 F.3d 514 (5th Cir. 2004)

Case (cite)
United States v. Hicks, 389 F.3d 514 (5th Cir. 2004)
Year
2004
State
5th Circuit
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
John Beene
Summary of reasons for ruling
The court found the expert qualified based on his education, training, and extensive experience in cartridge comparison. The court held that the methodology was reliable based on the practice of matching shell casings to a weapon being widely recognized for decades, existing standards governing firearms comparison testing, and the expert's testimoney about low rate of error. Further, the Defendant did not point to any cases indicating the method used by the expert was unreliable.
The jurisdiction’s standard for expert admissibility at the time – list all that apply: (Frye), (Daubert), (Post-2000 Rule 702), (Other)
702; Daubert
Did lower court hold a hearing
Y
Names of prosecution expert(s) two testified at hearing
Beene
Names of defense expert(s) who testified at hearing (or None).
N/A
Discussion of 2009 NAS Report (NAS2009) or PCAST report (PCAST)
N
Discussion of error rates / reliability
Y (very little, just cited in conclusion paragraph)
Frye Ruling
N
Limiting testimony ruling
N
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)
overall reliability
Ruling on qualifications of expert
Y
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

Based on the widespread acceptance of firearms comparison testing, the existence of standards governing such testing, and Beene’s testimony about the negligible rate of error for comparison tests, the district court had sufficient evidence to find that Beene’s methodology was reliable. Accordingly, it did not abuse its discretion by admitting his testimony.