FL Gives Judges Power To Decide On Credibility of Expert Witnesses


Florida has substantially changed its standards for expert-witness testimony, joining the growing majority of states in adopting a version of the federal-court standard, reports the Orlando Sentinel. The change, a Gov. Rick Scott campaign plank, was billed as a way to cut back on “junk science” and civil-litigation costs. What remains to be seen is how the switch will change the criminal courts, where expert testimony is often vital and disputes regarding experts have featured prominently in some of high-profile cases, including George Zimmerman’s.

Florida switched from the “Frye” standard to the “Daubert” standard, each named after a landmark case which established it. Under the old rules, judges needed only to determine if an expert’s methods were “generally accepted” in a given field. Now, judges must decide whether an expert’s testimony is based on sufficient facts, whether the expert used reliable methods, and whether those methods were applied correctly to the facts of a case. Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton worries the switch will spur attacks on well-established science, resulting in a cottage industry of experts-for-hire hoping to “take a very stable forensic evidence system of case law and just throw it up in the air.”

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