Thursday, September 25, 2014

Speculation and Daubert

The Mississippi Court of Appeals decided Newell v. State on Tuesday.  A copy of the opinion is located here.  This was a criminal case that goes through discussing a Daubert challenge to expert testimony which I have previously discussed.  The Court of Appeals ultimately reverses the criminal conviction for a new trial because the expert's opinion goes through a lot of speculation and does not rule out other causes of an injury.   

The relevant language of the opinion to me is below which I have bolded. 

"¶8. “[T]he admission of expert testimony is within the sound discretion of the trial judge.
Miss. Transp. Comm’n v. McLemore, 863 So. 2d 31, 34 (¶4) (Miss. 2003) (citing Puckett v.
State, 737 So. 2d 322, 342 (¶57) (Miss. 1999)).  The trial judge’s discretion must comply
with the Mississippi Rules of Evidence.  Ross v. State, 954 So. 2d 968, 996 (¶56) (Miss.
“Reversal is proper only where such discretion has been abused and a substantial
right of a party has been affected.  The trial court’s discretion must also [e]nsure the
constitutional right of the accused to present a full defense in his or her case.”  Id. (internal
citations omitted).

¶9. Under Mississippi Rule of Evidence 702, (1) the expert’s testimony must be “based
upon sufficient facts or data,” (2) it must be “the product of reliable principles and methods,”
and (3) the witness must have “applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the
case.”  The supreme court noted in Parvin v. State, 113 So. 3d 1243, 1247 (¶14) (Miss.
2013), that expert opinions must rise above mere speculation.  Indefinite expert opinions, or those expressed in terms of mere possibilities, are not admissible.  For example, we have held that an expert’s offering a reasonable hypothesis was insufficient, explaining that expert testimony should be made of sterner stuff.".   (emphasis added).

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