Expert Witness Testimony Put To The Test

A legislative change put in place in 2013 by Governor Rick Scott that would require judges to apply more stringent rules for the admission of expert witness testimony may be put to the test in a six-year-old case in which five people were killed.

CBS Local in Miami reported on Wednesday, November 27th on the station’s website that in July of this year the 4th District Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Jabari Kemp who had been convicted of five counts of vehicular manslaughter and 30 years in prison for his role in a crash that happened in 2013. Attorney General Ashley Moody is asking the Florida Supreme Court as to whether the State’s Courts should be applying what is known as the Daubert Standard and place a stay on lower court decisions.

At issue is the testimony of Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) investigator, Robert Dooley, whose testimony is alleged to have not met the current Daubert Standard as ordered by the Florida Supreme Court.  Because of the failure of the expert witness to meet the Daubert Standard, a new trial was ordered in the Kemp case.

In the Kemp case, it is estimated that the defendant was estimated to have been traveling at a speed of approximately 128 miles per hour when it exited Interstate 95 and crashed into a vehicle that had the five victims inside. Kemp maintains that he fainted before the crash.  This detail could determine whether Kemp can be convicted of the manslaughter charges against him.

Prosecutors allege that Kemp did attempt to apply the vehicle’s brakes prior to the fatal crash, which would undermine his claim of having fainted.

Because Dooley’s expert testimony did not outline the technique he used in determining the nature of the crash, nor was it tested or submitted for peer review, it falls below the Daubert Standard when applied to accident reconstruction.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled in May that all expert testimony must meet the Daubert Standard in order to prevent “junk science” from entering lawsuits brought before the courts.