State v. Guilbert
Testimony by a qualified expert on the fallibility of eyewitness identification is admissible under the 1997 Supreme Court case of State v. Porter, when that testimony would aid the jury in evaluating the state's identification evidence. William Robinson was shot in a bar. Cedric Williams and Terry Ross were fatally shot driving away from the bar. Robinson survived and initially identified "Fats," the defendant, Brady Guilbert, as the shooter. Lashon Baldwin and Jackie Gomez, who knew Guilbert, testified to seeing him leave the vehicle after Williams and Ross were shot. Scott Lang testified to standing "shoulder to shoulder" with the shooter in the bar. He later saw Guilbert's photograph in a newspaper and recognized him. He identified Guilbert as the shooter at trial. A jury found Guilbert guilty of capital felony, two counts of murder and assault in the first degree. The court rendered judgment accordingly and sentenced Guilbert to life imprisonment without the possibility of release plus 20 years. Guilbert appealed contending, inter alia, that the court improperly precluded him from presenting expert testimony on the fallibility of eyewitness identifications and that the Supreme Court should overrule its 1986 decision in State v. Kemp and 1999 decision in State v. McClendon concluding that the average juror knows the factors affecting eyewitness identifications and disfavoring expert testimony on the issue because it invades the province of the jury to determine what weight to give such evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments but overruled Kemp and McClendon as outmoded pointing to the near perfect scientific consensus and widespread judicial recognition that eyewitness identifications are potentially unreliable in various ways unknown to average jurors. Consequently, expert testimony on eyewitness identifications is admissible upon a determination by the trial court that the expert is qualified and the proffered testimony is relevant and will aid the jury. The trial court retains discretion to decide whether, under the facts and circumstances presented, focused and informative jury instructions on the issue alone would be adequate. Here, the court abused its discretion in precluding expert testimony on Lang's eyewitness identificationthe only witness who was not previously familiar with Guilbert and, thus, posed a higher risk of misidentificationbut, the impropriety was harmless. Justice Zarella, joined by Justice McLachlan, concurred in the judgment but disagreed with certain reasoning.