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United States v. Otero, 849 F.Supp.2d 425 (D.N.J. 2012)

Case (cite)
United States v. Otero, 849 F.Supp.2d 425 (D.N.J. 2012)
Type of proceeding
Type of claim
Type of claim (second claim)
Expert evidence ruling reversing or affirming on appeal:
What was the ruling?
Type of evidence at issue:
Firearms identification
Defense or Prosecution Expert
Name of expert(s) who were the subject of the ruling
James Ryan (New Jersey State Police)
Summary of reasons for ruling
The court's job is not to exam whether a forensic techinque is infalliable. Because the ballistic testimony satisfies all five Daubert factors, it is admissble.
The jurisdiction’s standard for expert admissibility at the time – list all that apply: (Frye), (Daubert), (Post-2000 Rule 702), (Other)
Second standard
Rule 702
Did lower court hold a hearing
Names of prosecution expert(s) two testified at hearing
Stephen Deady
Names of defense expert(s) who testified at hearing (or None).
Adina Schwartz (John Jay)
Discussion of 2009 NAS Report (NAS2009)
NAS2009 & Ballistics Imaging
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)
All factors
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


The court found that the testimony here satisfied every Daubert factor. Specifically, the court found that “the AFTE theory is testable and has been tested.”




Despite its recognition of the NAS2009 “claims for absolute certainty … may well be somewhat overblown[,]” the court nonetheless allowed the witness to link the projectile/casing to a specific weapon.


“While a definitive error rate has not been calculated, the information derived from the proficiency testing is indicative of a low error rate”


The Court further recognizes, as did the National Research Council’s report, that claims for absolute certainty as to identifications made by practitioners in this area may well be somewhat overblown. The role of this Court, however, is much more limited than determining whether or not the procedures utilized are sufficient to satisfy scientists that the expert opinions are virtually infallible. If that were the requirement, experience-based expert testimony in numerous technical areas would be barred. Such an approach would contravene well-settled precedent on the district court’s role in evaluating the admissibility of expert testimony.