What Happens When Dirty Harry Becomes an (Expert) Witness for the Prosecution?
55 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2005 Last revised: 25 Apr 2014
Date Written: 2004
Although many may suspect that police experts play a crucial role in obtaining convictions, few realize that police officers and federal agents are the most common prosecution experts. Police experts play an especially significant role in narcotics prosecutions where expert interpretations of a defendant's drug behavior or drug jargon abound. This Article attempts to reconcile the post-Daubert goal that judges consistently scrutinize the validity of expert evidence with the fact that, in practice, prosecutors consistently gain an unfair advantage when judges cede control of their courtrooms to the expert who arrives with a badge and gun. The assumptions that underlie this type of police expert testimony are frequently flawed or undisclosed. Thus, the Article proposes specific inquiries that could be adopted by the judiciary and defense bar to ensure that police experts' methods are valid and their conclusions are reasonable.
Keywords: Expert witness, prosecution, Rule 702, drug jargon expertise, experience based expertise, propensity evidence, admissibility standards
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