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Review Questions

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  1. What is the general evidence rule relating to the admissibility of opinions of witnesses in a criminal case? Explain the rationale for this rule. (SSSS 11.1, 11.3)
  2. Explain the reasons for the exceptions to the opinion rule. (SS11.1)
  3. Define opinion evidence, expert witness, and nonexpert witness. (SS11.2)
  4. A nonexpert, or lay witness, may state a relevant opinion if three requirements are met. What are the three requirements? What is the effect of Federal Rule 701? May a witness give an explanation regarding the defendant's guilt? (SS11.3)
  5. Explain how a lay witness may offer opinions on the same subject as an expert witness. (SS11.2)
  6. A nonexpert witness is asked, "What was the appearance of the man at the time, with reference to his being rational or irrational?" Will an answer be allowed over the objection of the other party? Explain. (SS11.4)
  7. May a layperson give an opinion in identifying another's handwriting? If so, what are the requirements? (SS11.4(I))
  8. What kind of foundation would have to be developed for a lay witness to offer an opinion that a person was intoxicated? (SS11.4)
  9. A police officer testified, "In my opinion, the defendant was drunk." Under what conditions is this nonexpert opinion testimony admissible? Do the same rules apply in drug cases? (SS11.4(F)) May a nonexpert give an opinion regarding mental condition? What are the requirements? (SS11.4(G))
  10. Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence defines the conditions under which expert testimony is admissible. What is the general rule relating to the use of expert testimony? (SS11.5)
  11. How does one qualify as an expert witness? (SS11.6)
  12. Can a witness qualify as an expert when he or she does not have a degree or license? May the special knowledge necessary to qualify as an expert be derived from experience? May the fact that the expert does not have a degree or license be brought out at the trial? (SS11.6)
  13. How does the defense attorney or prosecutor go about selecting an expert witness and having him or her qualified by the court? (SS11.7)
  14. There are two avenues through which expert evidence may be presented to a jury. Briefly state these and explain the differences between them. (SS11.8)
  15. When an expert witness takes the stand, may his or her opinions be challenged in the cross-examination process? What is the process for challenging these opinions? (SS11.9)
  16. Common subjects of expert testimony are the physical and mental condition of a person. Is it necessary that the expert in such situations be a person licensed to practice medicine? If not, what are the qualifications? (SS11.10(C))
  17. When an expert gives an opinion regarding handwriting, must he or she state that he or she is positive that the samples are identical? Does requiring a suspect to give a handwriting specimen violate the Fifth Amendment? (SS11.10(E))
  18. Why do most courts exclude expert testimony explaining the results of polygraph examinations? Can polygraph examiners be qualified as expert witnesses? When can polygraph examination results be admitted into evidence through the use of expert testimony? (SS11.10(G))
  19. How does a witness qualify as an expert in a drug case? May a police officer testify as an expert witness when the case involves drug violations? (SS11.10(K))
  20. Under what conditions may those who conduct a test in a crime laboratory testify concerning the significance of the test? (SS11.11)
  21. A defendant was charged with driving under the influence and resisting arrest. At the trial, over the objection of the defendant, a lay witness was allowed to testify that, based on what he observed, "the defendant was intoxicated." One of the issues on appeal was "did the district court err in admitting lay witness opinion testimony?" What was the provision of Rule 701 of the Montana rules of evidence? Did the rule preclude a lay witness from testifying about a person's state of intoxication? What was the conclusion of the Supreme Court of Montana concerning the admission of the lay witness testimony in this case? (State v. Carter, Part II)
  22. The state of Texas charged a defendant with possession of a recreational amount of marijuana and he was convicted. A police officer had noticed marijuana during a routine traffic stop and arrested Osbourn. To use an expert at trial, notice was required under the Texas law in force at the time of the trial. The trial court permitted the police officer to identify the leafy substance as marijuana after she noted that she had received drug training at the police academy. Should the police officer have been allowed to identify marijuana as a lay witness? Does it take an expert witness to be used to identify marijuana? Is this the type of evidence on which both lay and expert witness might be able to offer opinions? Explain. (Osbourn v. Texas, Part II)
  23. In the case of United States v. de Soto, the defendants were charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and with conspiring to distribute cocaine. At the trial, one of the police officers involved in the investigation was allowed to testify as an expert regarding: (1) his opinion on the manner in which drug dealers operate; (2) his opinion on the true nature of certain activities that he observed; and (3) his interpretation of certain seized documents. After the defendants were convicted, they appealed, arguing that the court erred in allowing the officer to testify as an expert. What was the determination of the court concerning the: (1) average person's knowledge of the clandestine manner in which drugs are bought and sold? (2) authority of law enforcement officers to testify as experts in drug cases? (3) practice concerning the reversal of lower court decisions in expert testimony situations? (4) legality of authorizing a witness to testify both as an eyewitness to the events and an expert? (United States v. de Soto, Part II)