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United States v. Taylor, 663 F.Supp.2d 1170 (D. N.M. 2009)

Case (cite)
United States v. Taylor, 663 F.Supp.2d 1170 (D. N.M. 2009)
New Mexico
Type of proceeding
Type of claim
Expert evidence ruling reversing or affirming on appeal:
What was the ruling?
Other; Daubert hearing
Type of evidence at issue:
Firearms identification
Defense or Prosecution Expert
Name of expert(s) who were the subject of the ruling
Ron G. Nichols
Summary of reasons for ruling
The court found that the methods used satisfied Daubert, but given concerns about reliability, the expert could not testify as a matter of scientific certainty
The jurisdiction’s standard for expert admissibility at the time – list all that apply: (Frye), (Daubert), (Post-2000 Rule 702), (Other)
Daubert; FRE 702
Did lower court hold a hearing
Names of prosecution expert(s) two testified at hearing
Ron G. Michols
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)
Discussion of error rates / reliability
Frye Ruling
Limiting testimony ruling
Language imposed by court to limit testimony
cannot testify that "he can conclude that there is a match to the exclusion, either practical or absolute, of all other guns. He may only testify that, in his opinion, the bullet came from the suspect rifle to within a reasonable degree of certainty"
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


However, as one district court recently put it, “storm clouds … are gathering.” Id. Because of the seriousness of the criticisms launched against the methodology underlying firearms identification, both by various commentators and by Defendant in this case, the Court will carefully assess the reliability of this methodology, using Daubert as a guide


One additional problem with firearms examination, not necessarily neatly encapsulated by any one of the Daubert factors, bears mentioning. Generally, as was done in this case, the examiner is handed only one suspect weapon and the recovered projectile or projectiles. As one district court has pointed out, this method of testing is, “in effect, an evidentiary ‘show-up,’ not what scientists would regard as a ‘blind test.’ ”