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United States v. Sebbern, 2012 WL 5989813 (E.D.N.Y. 2012)

Case (cite)
United States v. Sebbern, 2012 WL 5989813 (E.D.N.Y. 2012)
New York
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
Does not name the expert
Summary of reasons for ruling
Defendant argued that any expert testimony on ballistics based on the NRC Report. The court held that this argument was unsupported by any authority, stating that at more, courts have limited testimony based on these criticims, but had not excluded it altogether. Since the motion did not argue for limiting the testimony, the court declined to address that. The court held that a Daubert hearing is unnecessary because other courts had already done detailed analysis of ballistics under Daubert and had concluded that it was satisfactory. The court "sees no need to duplicate the considerable efforts by those courts." However, the court required there be a hearing for the government to lay a foundation and decide if limitations are necessary.
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
Names of defense expert(s) who testified at hearing (or None).
Discussion of 2009 NAS Report (NAS2009)
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)
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


“This Court, like the district court in Williams, sees no need to hold a separate Daubert hearing. This Court has reviewed the opinions in Otero, Taylor, Diaz, and Montiero, and is persuaded by those thorough and well-reasoned decisions that ballistics testimony of the sort proffered in this case is admissible under Daubert.1 This Court sees no need to duplicate the considerable efforts of those courts.”




FN1: “In addition, this Court is aware that many other federal courts have admitted this sort of ballistics testimony, often without expressly applying the Daubert factors themselves. United States v. Willock, 696 F.Supp.2d 536, 563–64 (D.Md.2010) (citing cases).”


While Williams holds that a separate Daubert hearing is unnecessary, it does not hold that district courts can rely solely on case law in discharging the gatekeeping function. The Court of Appeals implied that reliance on prior case law alone would be insufficient to satisfy Daubert, stating:
Because the district court’s inquiry here did not stop when the separate hearing was denied, but went on with an extensive consideration of the expert’s credentials and methods, the jury could, if it chose to do so, rely on her testimony which was relevant to the issues in the case. We find that the gatekeeping function of Daubert was satisfied and that there was no abuse of discretion.
Id. at 162. The Second Circuit also expressly cautioned against reading Williams “as saying that any proffered ballistic expert should be routinely admitted.” Id.


In fact, at least four district courts have engaged in a thorough evaluation of the Daubert factors in cases in which the government sought to admit the sort of ballistics testimony at issue here. . . . Each of these courts engaged in lengthy hearings, involving multiple witness and the presentation of documentary evidence. . . In all four cases, Dr. Schwartz testified for the defense. Id. Moreover, in at two of these cases, the courts expressly addressed the criticisms set forth in the NRC Report. . . . Yet, in none of these cases did the courts preclude the ballistics expert from testifying.