News 09.29.10

Arizona Judge Rules Expert Testimony Law Unconstitutional

An Arizona judge

ruled Friday

that a new law regarding expert testimony in court is unconstitutional because he said the state Supreme Court – and not the legislature — is supposed to establish procedural rules for trial.

There has long been a debate over what expert testimony is acceptable at trial. Now, two Arizona judges disagree over whether the new law is constitutional.

Prosecutors contended that the law, which was passed earlier this year, puts the onus on judges to decide whether an expert’s credentials and theories pass scientific muster. Defense attorneys alleged that the prosecutors simply want to pass off state and county crime-lab findings as the final authority on evidence.

A defense attorney involved in the case, Larry Debus, plans to appeal the ruling.

“They’re able to bring in all these experts who will say anything to support the state’s case – experts who are paid for by the state,” Debus said.

Likewise, defense witnesses are paid by the defense. But motions filed by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office claim that the new law – under which Debus filed his motion to challenge the DPS crime lab’s findings – “violates the Arizona Constitution by voiding the jury’s role in determining questions of fact and credibility and vesting it instead with the trial judge.”

But the judge disagrees and said it is the jury who decides if a witness is credible, not the trial judge. 


Read the full story here

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