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Expert testimony is important in any trial, but determining whether or not the testimony is admissible can lead to other problems. The Daubert Standard is used by trial judges during the preliminary assessment. It is crucial that the trial judge assesses the expert’s testimony on if it is not only scientifically valid, but also if the testimony can be applied to the issues properly. To properly determine if the expert testimony meets the Daubert standard there are five criteria’s that must be met; “(1) whether the theories or techniques on which the testimony relies are based on a testable hypothesis; (2) whether the theory or technique has been subject to peer review; (3) whether there is a known or potential rate of error associated with the method; (4) whether there are standards controlling the method; and (5) whether the method is generally accepted in the relevant scientific community” (Kennedy, 2014, p. 1). The Daubert standard prevents trial judges from allowing expert testimony that is not reliable from entering the courtroom as evidence. Influence on Forensic Assessment
The Daubert standard has allowed certain expert testimony’s to be allowed in court as evidence that could have been thrown out. In Ramirez v. State, “the Supreme Court of Florida rejected expert testimony asserting that a knife belonged to the defendant’s girlfriend was the instrument used to inflict a fatal stab wound” (Kennedy, 2014, p. 1). Under the Frye standard, forensic evidence being used as expert testimony has been challenged. In Ramirez v. State, the judge threw the forensic evidence out because of the Frye standard. Based on the Daubert standard; however, the federal district judge allowed the forensic evidence as expert testimony because of the matching fingerprints on the knife. Judge Pollak allowed the prosecution to present the identification testimony based on the fingerprints. Importance of the Daubert Standard
If the expert testimony was not obtained by the scientific method, then the judge has the right to reject the testimony. However, if the expert testimony is accepted as evidence, it is important that the expert show “precisely how they reached their conclusions and point to an objective source to show they followed the scientific method as it is practiced” (Casebriefs LLC, 2014, p. 1). The testimony will not be admissible if the expert is able to support such evidence. Finally, the Daubert standard must follow the specific criteria of Rule 702. The Rule 702, defined by the Legal Information Institute (1992) states “a witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion” (p. 1). This individual may also testify if (1) the testimony is based on sufficient facts, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles, and (3) the expert reliably applied the principles to the facts of the case (Legal Information Institute, 1992).
It should be known that it is important for a forensic psychologist to be experts in both practice and the underlying sciences to ensure that the expert testimony is reliable. Heilbrun, Grisso, and Goldstein (2009) explain that “forensic mental health experts should be aware of the specific evidentiary law that governs the admissibility of their testimony” (p. 48). The experts should also anticipate that his or her testimony may be subject to a legal challenge. This would occur if the testimony is based on an unusual or controversial topic. The Daubert standard provides forensic psychology professionals with the specific requirements of an expert testimony to ensure that the evidence does not get dismissed.
Casebriefs LLC. (2014). Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/torts/torts-keyed-to-prosser/causation-in-fact/daubert-v-merrell-dow-pharmaceuticals-inc-4/2/ Heilbrun, K., Grisson, T., & Goldstein, A. N. (2008). Foundations of forensic mental health assessment. New York: Oxford University Press. Kennedy, D. (2014). Assessing Forensic Science. Retrieved from http://issues.org/20-1/kennedy-2/ Legal Information Institute. (1992). Rule 702. Testimony by Expert Witnesses. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/fre/rule_702