If you’re on trial, one thing you may find exceptionally intimidating is when the prosecution puts on a scientific expert witness to testify. You may fear that the jury will give great importance to what this person says and, if his/her testimony seems to indicate that you’re guilty, then the jury will say so, too. However, what if there was a way to keep the jury from hearing anything at all from this expert witness? There is and, with the help of a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney, you too may be able to accomplish it and reap the benefits of a stronger defense as a result.
One way to block the prosecution from putting an expert witness’s testimony before a jury lies within something called Rule 5-702. That’s a rule of evidence that says that all expert testimony must have “a sufficient factual basis … to support” it and, if not, then you are entitled to make a motion objecting to the expert, and the trial judge should exclude that expert’s evidence.
A recent murder case illustrates how this process works. K.M. was on trial in connection with the deaths of two people shot multiple times at close range.
At K.M.’s trial, the prosecution presented the testimony of an FBI physical scientist. The FBI scientist used the processes of photogrammetry and reverse photogrammetry projection to make an identification of the shooter. The FBI scientist testified that, based on these processes, she determined that the person who killed the victims was 5’8” tall, plus or minus 2/3 of an inch.
K.M. stood 5’8”.
Too Many Variables to Yield a Reliable Result
However, the mandatory “sufficient factual basis” wasn’t present in this case, according to the Court of Special Appeals. The FBI scientist, in testifying, acknowledged that the images she used to calculate the shooter’s height were “far from pristine,” including being of poor resolution and being taken from a camera very far away from the shooter.
Additionally, the images used to make the height calculation did not allow the scientist to see the shooter’s feet and may have depicted a person standing at less than full height. Based on all those variables, the scientist stated that the margin of error could be as much as plus or minus three inches, That was very important because an eyewitness in the case testified that the shooter was roughly 5’11” tall.
In other words, the FBI scientist’s testimony appeared on the surface to present a precise height calculation but was based on facts and data that contained so many variables that, according to the court, a reliably accurate height calculation was not possible. That meant that the expert’s testimony wasn’t sufficiently reliable and should have been excluded from the case.
Certainly, if you’re a defendant in a case like K.M.’s, getting that expert excluded can greatly strengthen your defense. The evidence the jury would hear would include an eyewitness saying the shooter was a man much taller than you, and the jury would not hear an FBI scientist saying the shooter was someone of your height. Certainly, the odds of an acquittal would be greater under those circumstances.
Whether your case involves a need to exclude unreliable expert evidence, physical evidence obtained from an illegal search, or your incriminating statement the police obtained improperly, the difference between an acquittal and a conviction may be your degree of success in ensuring the evidence that should be excluded never makes it in front of the jury. A skilled attorney can help you win those legal battles and get the outcome you need. Look to the experienced Maryland criminal defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC to be the sort of powerful advocate you need to succeed. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.