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An Evaluation of Crime Scene Legal Cases Related to Judicial Gatekeeping

Lee Wade & William Shulman


Abstract: After the Supreme Court decision in Kumho Tire Co., LTD et al. v. Carmichael et al. (1999), judges have allowed crime scene investigators to testify as experts related to their knowledge, training, and experience. However, defense counsel normally challenge their type of testimony based upon case law precedent related to rules under various Supreme Court cases and The Federal Rules of Evidence. This paper evaluated legal cases challenging testimonies of crime scene investigators related to the reconstruction of a crime scenes and elements of criminal incidents. The pattern that emerged showed that judges, as gatekeepers of evidence related to expert opinions, generally admit testimony from crime scene investigators and reconstructionists, but often limit the weight of evidence for the jury. It should be noted that although crime scene investigators and reconstructionists were evaluated in these judicial cases, there are differences in reconstruction and initial crime scene investigations. The training and experience of the crime scene expert, and the general information related to the reconstruction of the crime scene, were two of the several variables that influenced the opinion of the judges.


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