Cases Dealing With Rule 702 Texas Expert Testimony

Texas Rules of Evidence, Rule 702 provides: If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise. TEX. R. EVID. 702. In Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc. v. Havner, 953 S.W.2d 706 (Tex. 1997), the Texas Supreme Court addressed whether the evidence at issue in that case was legally sufficient, i.e., some evidence, to support the jury's finding of causation. See Havner, 953 S.W.2d at 711. The evidence in Havner, which the trial court admitted, was scientific expert testimony. See id. The court noted that under a traditional legal sufficiency review, a reviewing court is to consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict. The court said, however, that in conducting a legal sufficiency review, for a reviewing court to not look beyond the expert's testimony to determine reliability would be to engage in a "meaningless exercise of looking to see only what words appear in the transcript of the testimony, not whether there is in fact some evidence." Havner, 953 S.W.2d at 712. Thus, the court held that when determining whether expert testimony is some evidence, the reviewing court must undertake an almost de novo-like review and, like the trial court, look beyond the expert's bare testimony to determine the reliability of the theory underlying it. The court then undertook an examination of the reliability of the evidence on which Havner's experts relied. In determining reliability, the court stated, "While Rule 702 deals with admissibility of evidence, it offers substantive guidelines in determining if the expert testimony is some evidence of probative value." Id. Texas Rule of Evidence 702 allows the receipt of expert testimony if it "will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to understand a fact in evidence." Tex. R. Evid. 702. However, in Yount v. State, 872 S.W.2d 706, 712 (Tex.Crim.App. 1993), the court held that Rule 702 does not permit experts to opine about a particular class of persons (in this case, all defendants) being truthful. The reason for this exception is that jurors are just as capable as experts in drawing conclusions concerning a witness' credibility. Id. at 710. Indeed, that is one of the primary duties of the jury as factfinder. It is true that in some special instances, the courts have permitted testimony about behavioral characteristics typically exhibited by a special type of victim. See Cohn v. State, 849 S.W.2d 817 (Tex.Crim.App. 1993) (testimony permitted concerning a victim of sexual abuse). However, those instances are strictly scrutinized and limited, and subject to the limitation that an expert may not testify as to the truthfulness of a witnesses' testimony in a particular instance. Schutz v. State, 957 S.W.2d 52, 69 (Tex.Crim.App. 1997).