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United States v. Monteiro, 407 F.Supp.2d 351 (D.Mass. 2006)

Case (cite)
United States v. Monteiro, 407 F.Supp.2d 351 (D.Mass. 2006)
Year
2006
State
Federal District Ct (D. Mass.)
Type of proceeding
Trial
Type of claim
Evidentiary
Expert evidence ruling reversing or affirming on appeal:
Excluded
What was the ruling?
Other; Trial court
Type of evidence at issue:
Firearms identification
Defense or Prosecution Expert
Prosecution
Name of expert(s) who were the subject of the ruling
Sgt. Douglas Weddleton
Summary of reasons for ruling
The court found the firearm identification evidence half science and half experience. Although there are subjective elements in the process, the existence of the requirement for peer review and documentation ensure sufficient testability and reproducibility to ensure that the results of the technique are reliable. Therefore, a qualified examiner who has documented and had a second qualified examiner verify her results may testify based on those results that a cartridge case matches a particular firearm to a reasonable degre of ballistic certainty.The Court concludes (1) the methodology is reliable; (2) the examiner is qualified by reason of training, experience and proficiency testing; (3) the expert opinion is inadmissible because it fails to comport with the standards for documentation and peer review in the ballistics field, and (4) the dispute over the effect of replacement parts does not render the testimony inadmissible but goes to the weight of the evidence. The motion in limine is ALLOWED without prejudice to the government's re-submission of test results that comply with the standards in the ballistics field.
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
Specia Agent Timothy Curtis & Mary Kate McGilvray; affidavit of FBI special agent Philip Ball
Names of defense expert(s) who testified at hearing (or None).
David J. LaMagna; Mary-Jacque Mann; Catherine Doherty; Sgt. Douglas Weddleton; plus affidavit of Adina Schwartz
Discussion of 2009 NAS Report (NAS2009) or PCAST report (PCAST)
N
Discussion of error rates / reliability
Y
Frye Ruling
N
Limiting testimony ruling
Y
Language imposed by court to limit testimony
"to a resonable degree of ballistic certainty"
Ruling based in prior precedent / judicial notice
N
Daubert ruling emphasizing – which factors – (list 1-5)
(1);(2);(3);(4);(5)
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
Y

Notes

Firearm identification evidence straddles the line btw testimony based on science and experience. As the AFTE Theory describes it, the methodology is “subjective in nature, founded on scientific principles and based on the examiner’s training and experience.” Science is in the background, at the core of the theory, but its application is based on experience and training. The court must, therefore, determine the reliability of both the underlying science and its application.

 

“Although there appear to be a disagreement in the peer reviewed literature as to the reliability of the AFTE method of identification, consensus is not necessary.”

 

On the importance of having defense expert: documentation and peer review ensure that defense counsel will be able to challenge the results through their own testing and effective cross-examination. Defense experts may testify about both the limitation of the methodology and the evidence in a particular case in a way accessible to the jury.

 

For decades, both before and after the Supreme Court’s seminal decisions in Daubert and Kumho Tire, admission of the type of firearm identification testimony challenged by the defendants has been semi-automatic; indeed, no federal court has yet deemed it inadmissible.

 

Based on the factors outlined in Daubert and Kumho Tire, the Court concludes that the methodology of firearms identification is sufficiently reliable. Therefore, a qualified examiner who has documented and had a second qualified examiner verify her results may testify based on those results that a cartridge case matches a particular firearm to a reasonable degree of ballistic certaint

 

NOTE: This case discusses reliability at length