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United States v. Mouzone, 687 F.3d 207 (4th Cir. 2012)

Case (cite)
United States v. Mouzone, 687 F.3d 207 (4th Cir. 2012)
Year
2012
State
4th Circuit
Type of proceeding
Appellate
Type of claim
Evidentiary
Expert evidence ruling reversing or affirming on appeal:
Admitted
What was the ruling?
No Error due to Harmless Error
Type of evidence at issue:
Firearms identification
Defense or Prosecution Expert
Prosecution
Name of expert(s) who were the subject of the ruling
Mark Ensor
Summary of reasons for ruling
Defendants argue that the expert's testimony violated the district court's order on limiting testimony by emphasizing the certainty of the testimony and that this was unfairly prejudicial by portraying the defendants as killers. The court disagreed and held that the expert testimony was "incapable of effectuating the prejudice" because it only supports the notion that the bullets recovered from each murder scene were fired from the same weapon, not that either defendent was responsible for the murder or that because they were guilty of one murder they were guilty of another. Therefore, if the jury concluded that defendants were the murderers, the expert testimony was not the cause of that conclusion. Because the court finds any error would be harmless, they decline to decide whether the court erred.
The jurisdiction’s standard for expert admissibility at the time – list all that apply: (Frye), (Daubert), (Post-2000 Rule 702), (Other)
N/A
Did lower court hold a hearing
Y
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
Language imposed by court to limit testimony
District court's limitations: "(1) that Ensor be prohibited from opining that it was a 'practical impossibility' for different firearms to have fired the casings, and (2) that he 'state his opinions and conclusions without any characterization as to the degree of certainty with which he holds them.'"
Ruling based in prior precedent / judicial notice
N
Daubert ruling emphasizing – which factors – (list 1-5)
N/A
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
N
Ruling on 702(d) – reliable application of principles and methods to the facts of the case
N

Notes

Note: it does appear the district court allowed the expert to testify in vioaltion of the order limiting his testimony. See below:

When Ensor testified, he stated repeatedly that the casings were “fired from the same firearm.” At one point he said, “If I go around this breech face and see that all these markings are matching up and phase with each other, the chances of that happening in a random fashion on two different surfaces, there comes a point where it’s a practical impossibility…. That’s when I’m convinced that these two [cartridge cases] were marked by the same surface.” Defense counsel entered multiple objections during Ensor’s testimony, but the district court overruled all of them.