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North Carolina Adopts Daubert Standards

April 2, 2014

Earlier this year, the Court of Appeals in North Carolina decided that the courts should apply the Daubert standards to expert testimony. State v. McGrady addresses the implications of the 2011 amendments to Rule 702 and confirmed that North Carolina State Courts must apply those standards.

McGrady was convicted of killing his cousin and on appeal “he argued that his expert’s testimony regarding the doctrine of ‘use of force’ was wrongfully excluded. The expert who testified for McGrady had no medical degree or education but claimed that the sources he used are regularly “relied on by people in the field of use of force, but he did not know its ‘potential rate of error’.”

The trial court found that the expert’s opinions “were based on medical knowledge that he was not qualified to discuss; his testimony was not helpful to the jury; he was not competent to testify about reaction times; his testimony was not based on sufficient facts or data; his testimony was not product of reliable principles or methods; his methods had not been subject to peer review; and his opinions were based on speculation.” The Court of Appeals affirmed the exclusion and confirmed that the amendment replaces standards set by Howerton v. Arai Helmet with Daubert. Furthermore, the court addressed that the judge will serve as gatekeeper in applying the Daubert standards.

After ten years it seems North Carolina has caught up with Rule 702 but the question remains… will this ruling last? North Carolina has been clear that it wants jury trials “as long as the expert testimony satisfies the requirements of relevance and reliability.”

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