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Posts tagged "expert testimony"

Expert Testimony Must be Relevant to be Admissible

Qualified expert testimony may be admissible by either side in a criminal trial in Tennessee when the trial court determines it may substantially assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or deciding a material issue. When determining whether scientific evidence is reliable enough to be of assistance, trial courts in Tennessee consider how the evidence has been tested, whether it has been subject to peer review, whether a rate of error is known, and whether it is generally accepted in the scientific community. It of course also must be relevant to be of assistance to the trier of fact. In the recent case of State v. Adams, M2014-00501-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 6-19-2015), the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed a trial court ruling disallowing a DUI defendant's offered expert testimony concerning the effect of freon contamination of the blood on a preservative used to preserve a blood sample for testing alcohol content.

Expert Testimony Not Admissible to Establish "Heat of Passion"

Expert testimony may be used in criminal trials in Tennessee when it can substantially assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact at issue. It is not uncommon for there to be evidentiary disputes about whether a particular expert's testimony on a particular subject does that. A trial court judge, guided by legal precedent, must ultimately determine whether particular expert testimony will be admissible. Then the trier of fact (a jury in most criminal trials) must determine how much weight to afford that evidence. In Tennessee criminal trials for first degree premeditated murder, the defense may present expert testimony regarding the defendant's mental state only if the expert testimony can conclude that the defendant 1) suffered from a specific mental disease or defect; and 2) was unable to form premeditation as a result of that mental disease or defect. If the proffered expert(s) on the defendant's mental state does not reach both these conclusions, the testimony will be inadmissible. Additionally, the expert may not testify on the question of whether he or she believes the defendant experienced "sufficient provocation" or acted in the "heat of passion," as those determinations are not scientific or medical conclusions.

Expert Testimony Not Admissible to Establish "Heat of Passion"

Expert testimony may be used in criminal trials in Tennessee when it can substantially assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact at issue. It is not uncommon for there to be evidentiary disputes about whether a particular expert's testimony on a particular subject does that. A trial court judge, guided by legal precedent, must ultimately determine whether particular expert testimony will be admissible. Then the trier of fact (a jury in most criminal trials) must determine how much weight to afford that evidence. In Tennessee criminal trials for first degree premeditated murder, the defense may present expert testimony regarding the defendant's mental state only if the expert testimony can conclude that the defendant 1) suffered from a specific mental disease or defect; and 2) was unable to form premeditation as a result of that mental disease or defect. If the proffered expert(s) on the defendant's mental state does not reach both these conclusions, the testimony will be inadmissible. Additionally, the expert may not testify on the question of whether he or she believes the defendant experienced "sufficient provocation" or acted in the "heat of passion," as those determinations are not scientific or medical conclusions.

False Confession Defense Evidence Excluded

Tennessee courts recognize that false confessions do sometimes occur. In a case where the State's case includes an out-of-court confession from the Defendant, that evidence must usually be addressed in some way by the defense, if it cannot be excluded. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Mays, W2012-00607-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 3-7-2014), the defense in a felony murder by aggravated child abuse prosecution sought to introduce expert testimony from a forensic psychologist on the question of false confessions and the Defendant's vulnerability to making a false confession. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court ruling permitting some of the testimony about false confession but excluding testimony about the Defendant's particular vulnerability to it.

False Confession Defense Evidence Excluded

Tennessee courts recognize that false confessions do sometimes occur. In a case where the State's case includes an out-of-court confession from the Defendant, that evidence must usually be addressed in some way by the defense, if it cannot be excluded. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Mays, W2012-00607-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 3-7-2014), the defense in a felony murder by aggravated child abuse prosecution sought to introduce expert testimony from a forensic psychologist on the question of false confessions and the Defendant's vulnerability to making a false confession. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court ruling permitting some of the testimony about false confession but excluding testimony about the Defendant's particular vulnerability to it.

False Confession Defense Evidence Excluded

Tennessee courts recognize that false confessions do sometimes occur. In a case where the State's case includes an out-of-court confession from the Defendant, that evidence must usually be addressed in some way by the defense, if it cannot be excluded. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Mays, W2012-00607-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 3-7-2014), the defense in a felony murder by aggravated child abuse prosecution sought to introduce expert testimony from a forensic psychologist on the question of false confessions and the Defendant's vulnerability to making a false confession. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court ruling permitting some of the testimony about false confession but excluding testimony about the Defendant's particular vulnerability to it.

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