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United States v. Casaus

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 29, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
9. AMBROSE CASAUS, Defendant.

          ORDER TO DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO EXCLUDE LATENT FINGERPRINT IDENTIFICATION EVIDENCE

          CHRISTINE M. ARGUE LO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Casaus's Motion to Exclude Latent Fingerprint Identification Evidence (Doc. # 517).[1] Essentially, Defendant Casaus asks this Court to find that the fingerprint methodology used by the FBI, commonly known as the ACE-V method, is per se unreliable and therefore inadmissible. Keeping in line with the majority of courts to have addressed this issue, the Court denies the motion.

         I. LAW

         Fed. R. Evid. 702 imposes on a district court a gatekeeper obligation to “ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993). “Rule 702, both before and after Daubert, was intended to relax traditional barriers to admission of expert opinion testimony.” Cook v. Rockwell Int'l Corp., 580 F.Supp.2d 1071, 1082-83 (D. Colo. 2006).

         Rule 702 provides that a witness who is qualified as an expert by “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education” may testify if:

(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. The proponent of a challenged expert must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the testimony and opinion is admissible. United States v. Nacchio, 555 F.3d 1234, 1241 (10th Cir. 2009).

         In determining whether expert testimony is admissible, the Court generally employs a three-step process. First, it must first determine whether the expert is qualified “by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education” to render an opinion. Id. at 124. Second, if the expert is sufficiently qualified, the Court must determine whether the proposed testimony is sufficiently “relevant to the task at hand, ” such that it “logically advances a material aspect of the case.” Norris v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 397 F.3d 878, 884, 884 n.2 (10th Cir. 2005). “Doubts about whether an expert's testimony will be useful should generally be resolved in favor of admissibility unless there are strong factors such as time or surprise favoring exclusions. The jury is intelligent enough to ignore what is unhelpful in its deliberations.” Robinson v. Mo. Pac. R.R. Co., 16 F.3d 1083, 1090 (10th Cir. 1994) (quotation omitted).

         Third, the Court examines whether the expert's opinion “has ‘a reliable basis in the knowledge and experience of his [or her] discipline.'” Id. (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592). Guided by these principles, this Court has “broad discretion” to evaluate whether an expert is helpful, qualified, and reliable under F.R.E. 702. United States v. Velarde, 214 F.3d 1204, 1208-09 (10th Cir. 2000).

         II. ANALYSIS

         Defendant Casaus does not dispute the Government's fingerprint expert's qualifications, nor does he argue that the fingerprint evidence is irrelevant. Instead, he focuses only on the general ...


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