State v. Griffin, ___ N.C. App. ___, 834 S.E.2d 435 (Oct. 15, 2019)

In this Pasquotank County case, the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder. Upon discovering the body of the victim, police found five shell casings at the scene and two bullets on the victim’s body. At trial, an agent from the State Crime Lab was qualified as an expert in “forensics firearms examinations and analysis” without objection. She opined that the shell casings matched a gun recovered from a field next to the defendant’s property, again without objection. On appeal, the defendant argued that this testimony should have been excluded under Rule of Evidence 702 and relevant case law, and that admission of the testimony was plain error. The court disagreed.

According to the defendant, the analyst’s testimony failed to demonstrate that her opinion was based on sufficient data, that it was the product of reliable methods, or that the methods were reliably applied to the case. Rejecting that argument, the court observed: “Defendant severely misrepresents [the agent’s] opinion testimony by briefly summarizing a few lines of testimony while omitting the bulk of the testimony, and bases his argument on the unsupported and conclusory allegation that the testimony was insufficient to satisfy Daubert.” Reviewing the analyst’s testimony in full, the court found that the expert was qualified by her education in the field, she examined the casings in accordance with her training, she analyzed the data generated from her tests, and described her source of information and conclusions in a peer-reviewed report. Concluding, the court stated:

As [the agent’s] testimony shows her opinion was the product of reliable principles and methods, and that she reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion, much less plainly err, in admitting [the analyst’s] expert opinion testimony on forensic firearms examination.

There was therefore no error in admitting the expert testimony, and conviction was unanimously affirmed.