State v. McGrady, 368 N.C. 880 (Jun. 10, 2016)

Affirming the decision below, the court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by ruling that the defendant’s proffered expert testimony did not meet the standard for admissibility under Rule 702(a). The defendant offered its expert to testify on three principal topics: that, based on the “pre-attack cues” and “use of force variables” present in the interaction between the defendant and the victim, the defendant’s use of force was a reasonable response to an imminent, deadly assault that the defendant perceived; that the defendant’s actions and testimony are consistent with those of someone experiencing the sympathetic nervous system’s “fight or flight” response; and that reaction times can explain why some of the defendant’s defensive shots hit the victim in the back. Holding (for reasons discussed in detail in the court’s opinion) that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding this testimony, the court determined that the 2011 amendment to Rule 702(a) adopts the federal standard for the admission of expert witness articulated in the Daubert line of cases. See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).