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Whatley v. State, 509 S.E.2d 45 (Ga. 1998)

Case (cite)
Whatley v. State, 509 S.E.2d 45 (Ga. 1998)
Type of proceeding
Type of claim
Type of claim (second claim)
Expert evidence ruling reversing or affirming on appeal:
What was the ruling?
Correct to Admit
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
Summary of reasons for ruling
The court holds that the expert testimony (including hair comparison, fiber comparison, fingerprint compairson, and ballistics) are not novel and have been widely accepted in Georgia courts. Further, they court notes that appellant did not objection that the scientific evidence was unreliable or used improper testing procedures so the issues are waived on appeal.
The jurisdiction’s standard for expert admissibility at the time – list all that apply: (Frye), (Daubert), (Post-2000 Rule 702), (Other)
Second standard
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
N (but notes the experts were qualified)
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


“Whatley argues that the state used scientific evidence that was inherently unreliable. However, the record shows that all of the state’s experts who testified were properly qualified as expert witnesses by the trial court, and Whatley had no objection to any witness’ qualification. Harper v. State, 249 Ga. 519, 533(10), 292 S.E.2d 389 (1982). Furthermore, “[o]nce a procedure has been recognized in a substantial number of courts, a trial judge may judicially notice, without receiving evidence, that the procedure has been established with verifiable certainty, or that it rests upon the laws of nature.” Harper, supra at 526(1), 292 S.E.2d 389. The hair comparison, fiber comparison, fingerprint comparison, and ballistics evidence introduced in this case is not novel, and has been widely accepted in Georgia courts. In addition, Whatley did not object that any of the scientific evidence was unreliable, or that any testing procedure was improper. These issues are therefore waived on appeal. Harper, supra at 533(10), 292 S.E.2d 389. The trial court did not make the DNA findings required by Caldwell v. State, 260 Ga. 278, 286–287(1)(b), 393 S.E.2d 436 (1990), but Whatley did not object to the admission of the DNA evidence at trial and therefore cannot raise this error on appeal.”