Full Daubert Hearing Is Not Always Required To Admit Expert Testimony (II)

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In aggravated sexual abuse of a child trial, trial court was not required to hold a Daubert reliability hearing before admitting expert testimony by a university professor of pediatrics concerning the characteristics of minor victims of abuse; trial court has discretion to decide whether a Daubert hearing is required, in United States v. Kenyon, 481 F.3d 1054, 1061 (8th Cir. 2007)

A formal Daubert hearing is not always required before expert testimony may be admitted. An Eighth Circuit case noted the substantial discretion left with the trial court on this issue.

In the case, the defendant was prosecuted for committing aggravated sexual abuse of a child. At trial, the government introduced expert testimony by a university professor of pediatrics concerning the characteristics of minor victims of abuse. The expert “testified that children who are victims of sexual abuse do not always show signs of physical injury, that they may conceal the abuse for significant periods of time, that they may have difficulty describing the abuse in detail, and that the aggressiveness and extent of the abuse often increase as the abuse continues.” Kenyon, 481 F.3d at 1061. His testimony was based on his experience with approximately 5,000 child abuse victims. The defense claimed that a Daubert reliability hearing was required before the expert testimony could be admitted. After his conviction, the defendant appealed the admission of the expert testimony.

The Eighth Circuit affirmed the admission of the expert testimony and held a preliminary hearing was not required. The circuit noted that a formal Daubert hearing is not required as long as the trial court determines the expert testimony meets the reliability standards:

“Before admitting testimony based on scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge, a district court must ensure that the testimony rests on a reliable foundation. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 US. 579, 589 (1993); Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 141 (1999). A district court, however, enjoys ‘broad latitude when it decides how to determine reliability,’ Kumho Tire Co., 526 U.S. at 142 (emphasis in original), and ‘[t]here is no requirement that the District Court always hold a Daubert hearing prior to qualifying an expert witness.’ United States v. Solorio-Tafolla, 324 F.3d 964, 965-66 (8th Cir. 2003) (internal citation omitted). When a district court is satisfied with an expert’s education, training, and experience, and the expert’s testimony is reasonably based on that education, training, and experience, the court does not abuse its discretion by admitting the testimony without a preliminary hearing. Id. at 966.
Kenyon, 481 F.3d at 1061 (other citation omitted)

Given the trial court’s substantial discretion on whether to hold a formal Daubert hearing, a full hearing is not typically required. However, on appeal it may be important that the Daubert standards are otherwise shown in the record. For other cases addressing the discretion in the court on this issue, see Full Daubert Hearing Is Not Always Required To Admit Expert Testimony (I).



Federal Rules of Evidence
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