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Willie v. State, 274 So.3d 934 (Miss.Ct.App. 2018)

Case (cite)
Willie v. State, 274 So.3d 934 (Miss.Ct.App. 2018)
Year
2018
State
Mississippi
Type of proceeding
Appellate
Type of claim
Evidentiary
Expert evidence ruling reversing or affirming on appeal:
Admitted
What was the ruling?
Correct to Admit
Type of evidence at issue:
Firearms identification
Defense or Prosecution Expert
Prosecution
Name of expert(s) who were the subject of the ruling
Bryon McIntire
Summary of reasons for ruling
Defendant, citing NAS2009 and PCAST, appealed on the basis that the state's expert testimony failed the Daubert test because the science behind firearms identification is "inherently unreliable" and the expert failed to provide any margin of error. The court held that (1) the flexible Daubert inquiry does not require experts to provide a margin of error; (2) firearms identification testimonies are admissible when qualified with "reasonable degree 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
Did lower court hold a hearing
N/A
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) or PCAST report (PCAST)
NAS2009, PCAST
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)
(3): defendant took issue with the expert's failure to provide a margin-of-error rate related to the method he utilized; (5): defendant cited NAS report and PCAST report claiming the science of firearms identification testimony was unreliable.
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
N

Notes

The qualifying phrase “reasonable degree of scientific certainty” was held to be enough to make a firearms identification testimony admissble under Daubert

 

NAS2009: “Conclusions drawn in firearms identification should not be made to imply the presence of a firm statistical basis when none has been demonstrated. Specifically, … examiners tend to cast their assessments in bold absolutes, commonly asserting that a match can be made to the exclusion of all other firearms in the world. Such comments cloak an inherently subjective assessment of a match with extreme probability statement that has no firm grounding and unrealistically implies an error rate of zero

 

PCAST: “Whether firearms analysis should be deemed admissble based on current evidence is a decision that belongs to the courts. If firearms analysis is allowed in courts, the scientific criteria for validity as applied should be understood to require clearly reporting the error rates seen in one appropriately designed black-box study. Claims of higher accuracy are not scientifically justified.”