State v. Cooper, 229 N.C. App. 442 (Sept. 3, 2013)

In this murder case, the trial court committed reversible error by ruling that the defendant’s expert was not qualified to give expert testimony that incriminating computer files had been planted on the defendant’s computer. Temporary internet files recovered from the defendant’s computer showed that someone conducted a Google Map search on the laptop while it was at the defendant’s place of work the day before the victim was murdered. The Google Map search was initiated by someone who entered the zip code associated with the defendant's house, and then moved the map and zoomed in on the exact spot where the victim’s body later was found. Applying the old version of Evidence Rule 702 and the Howerton test, the court found that the trial court erred by concluding that the defendant’s expert was not qualified to offer the relevant expert testimony. It went on to conclude that this error deprived the defendant of his constitutional right to present a defense.