State v. Lane, 365 N.C. 7 (Mar. 11, 2011)

In a capital murder case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding expert testimony from a neuropharmacologist and research scientist who studies the effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain, proffered by the defense as relevant to the jury’s determination of the reliability of the defendant’s confession. The expert would have testified concerning the defendant’s pattern of alcohol use and the potential consequences of alcohol withdrawal, including seizures. However, the expert repeatedly stated that he could not opine as to whether the confession was false or true or what the defendant’s condition was at the time of the confession. Evidence had been presented indicating that the defendant was not intoxicated at the time of the interrogation and that he was an alcoholic. Given this evidence, the jury could assess how alcohol withdrawal affected the reliability of the confession, if at all. As such, the expert’s testimony would not assist the jury in understanding the evidence or determining a fact in issue under Rule 702.