The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and subsequent revisions to Federal Rule of Evidence 702, was supposed to usher a reliability revolution. This modern test for admissibility of expert evidence is sometimes described as a reliability test. Critics, however, have pointed out that judges continue to routinely admit unreliable evidence, particularly in criminal cases, including flawed forensic techniques that have contributed to convictions of innocent people later exonerated by DNA testing. This Article examines whether Rule 702 is in fact functioning as a reliability test, focusing on forensic evidence used in criminal cases and detailing the use of that test in states that have adopted the language of the 2000 revisions to Rule 702. Surveying hundreds of state court cases, we find that courts have largely neglected the critical language concerning reliability in the Rule. Rule 702 states that an expert may testify if that testimony is “the product of reliable principles and methods,” which are “reliably applied” to the facts of a case. Or as the Advisory Committee puts it simply, judges are charged to “exclude unreliable expert testimony.” Judges have not done so in state or federal courts, and in this study, we detail how that has occurred, focusing on criminal cases.
Brandon L. Garrett & M. Chris Fabricant, The Myth of the Reliability Test, 86 Fordham Law Review 1559-1599 (2018)