State v. Hasan

In State v. Hasan, 205 Conn. 485, 489, 534 A.2d 877 (1987) the defendant claimed that the trial court improperly had failed to subject certain expert testimony elicited by the state to a Frye analysis. Id., 490. The expert testimony at issue was from a podiatrist who had concluded "'within reasonable podiatric certainty'"; id., 488; and, on the basis of his examination of a pair of sneakers and the defendant's feet, that the sneakers belonged to the defendant. Id. The court rejected the defendant's claim. The Hasan court explained that the Frye test was applicable in "those situations in which the evidence sought to be admitted is beyond the understanding of the ordinary juror who must sacrifice his independent judgment in deference to the expert. . . . Among the dangers created by such scientific evidence is its potential to mislead lay jurors awed by an aura of mystic infallibility surrounding scientific techniques, experts and the fancy devices employed." Id., 490. The court went on to explain that Frye's analysis "has been either ignored or rejected in cases in which the method used by the expert was a matter of physical comparison rather than scientific test or experiment . . . . Many of these cases have involved identification of bite marks by comparison of the defendant's dental impressions to bite marks found on a victim's body . . . and identification of footprints by comparing shoes found at the crime scene with shoes worn by the defendant . . . . In such cases, the jury is in a position to weigh the probative value of the testimony without abandoning common sense and sacrificing independent judgment to the expert's assertions based on his special skill or knowledge. . . . Furthermore, where understanding of the method is accessible to the jury, and not dependent on familiarity with highly technical or obscure scientific theories, the expert's qualifications, and the logical bases of his opinions and conclusions can be effectively challenged by cross-examination and rebuttal evidence." Id., 490-91. The Hasan court stated that the expert had "testified that the features of the defendant's feet from which he drew his conclusions are very common"; id., 494; and that the expert testified that there was no science of matching shoes to people. Id. The court concluded that the admissibility of the expert's testimony did not depend on the general acceptance of his theories in the scientific community. Id. The court stated: "His conclusions relied on no advanced technology, nor did he employ scientifically sophisticated methods, the understanding of which lies beyond the intellectual powers of the ordinary layperson. The jury was not required to accept blindly the merit of his conclusions or methods. It had before it the same sneakers which had been examined by the podiatrist and, during the course of the trial, had seen the defendant try them on and walk in them. The value of the expert's expertise lay in its assistance to the jury in viewing and evaluating the evidence." Id.