Sample Law Case Studies Paper on The Daubert Standard of Admissibility

The Daubert Standard of Admissibility

Several cases in the US have been subjected to a Daubert hearing, and a perfect example is the Delaware v. Fensterer case. In this case, Fensterer was charged with the murder of his fiancée who he lived with and whose body was later discovered in a parking lot in a shopping center. There was a misunderstanding on how the deceased had been murdered with the prosecution contending that the deceased was strangled by Fensterer in their apartment with a cat leash. Evidence of two hairs on the leash believed to have been used in strangling the deceased was provided before the court, and testimony was given that the two hairs were similar to the deceased’s hair and that they must have been forcibly removed. The leash, before the court, was established to have been used as a murder weapon, and that it belonged to both the deceased and Fensterer. However, the evidence that the two hairs on the leash belonged to the deceased and that they were forcibly removed from her was questioned. The questioning of this evidence was based on the fact that the person providing the testimony could not explain the method or the exact manner in which the particular hairs were forcibly removed from the deceased (Giannelli, 2002). Therefore, the court ruled that an examination of the person providing the testimony would be nothing more than an exercise in futility because there was no basis for his opinion; whether the two hairs before the court were forcibly removed from the deceased or not.

The testifier at this Daubert Hearing was an FBI analyst who stated that there were three methods to determine whether the hair was forcibly removed. However, the FBI expert could not remember which of the three methods he had used in reaching his conclusion that hair was forcibly removed from the deceased making Fensterer, the murderer in this case. The FBI expert’s testimony was that he did not know the exact manner in which the particular hair had been forcibly removed going ahead to state that he had no indication to support this fact (Giannelli, 2002).

The outcome of this case depended on the admissibility of the FBI expert’s testimony. It cannot be ruled out that the FBI agent presented unqualified evidence, and it was from this perspective that the jury made their decision regarding the case (Green & Sanders, 2015). The Delaware Supreme Court held that the FBI agent’s opinion was inadmissible on evidentiary rather than constitutional grounds. The court argued that the fact that the witness lost memory of the perceived methods of forcible hair removal and the inability to establish sufficient basis for his opinion rendered the opinion inadmissible. The court also ruled that the fact that the FBI expert lacked memory precluded the defense from effectively, through cross-examination, testing the basis of his opinion. If this happened, it would be seen as a violation of the confrontation rights of Fensterer because from the prosecution perspective; the FBI agent appeared a highly credible person. The underlying point, in this case, was that the FBI agent did not commit himself to a basis for his opinion, and thus, his opinion was considered inadmissible by the Delaware Supreme Court. This decision was later appealed to the United States Supreme Court that disagreed with the decision made by the Delaware Supreme Court. The latter, however, on remand, held that the FBI agent’s opinion was inadmissible as there was no acknowledgment of the basis of his opinion.

References

Giannelli, P. C. (2002). Supreme Court’s Criminal Daubert Cases, The. Seton Hall. L. Rev., 33, 1071.

Green, M. D., & Sanders, J. (2015). Admissability versus Sufficiency: Controlling the Quality of Expert Witness Testimony. Wake Forest L. Rev., 50, 1057.