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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Some Admissibility Determinations

Because orderly presentation of evidence during trial saves time and focuses attention, some admissibility determinations are made in pretrial hearings, often referred to by the case name or procedural rule that is used in that jurisdiction. Examples in the U.S. Federal Court system pertaining to admission of forensic scientific evidence are the following landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases: Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals (509 U.S. 579 (1993)) and Frye v. United States (421 U.S. 542 (1975)).

A formal process is imposed to compel parties to disclose or share their evidence in advance of trial to maximize fairness, minimize wasted time and sharpen the focus on the contested issues. Consequently, jurisdictions require litigants (private and public) to make their evidence available before trial or risk having the evidence admitted at trial.

Although the length of time required in advance varies, an expert witness's examinations, testing, findings and concluding opinions are required in the form of a report, which is provided to all counsel.

In general, the final legal determination regarding admission of evidence is the finding that all procedures for sharing or providing evidence that either party intends to use at trial have been properly executed before trial.

For more on admissibility issues, see Importance of Case Preparation, Topics: 3, 10, 13 and 14; and Pretrial, Topics 1, 2, 4 and 5.

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