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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)
Year
2012
State
Federal District Ct
Type of proceeding
Trial
Type of claim
Evidentiary
Expert evidence ruling reversing or affirming on appeal:
Admitted
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
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)
Daubert; 702
Did lower court hold a hearing
Y
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) or PCAST report (PCAST)
NAS2009 & Ballistics Imaging
Discussion of error rates / reliability
Y
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)
(1);(2);(3);(4);(5)
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

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.