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Matthew Martinez
Matthew Martinez

Firearms, The Law And Forensic Ballistics (Tayl... !FREE!


  • Firearms laws around the world, including legal challenges raised in the U.S. by the Daubert decision

  • Firearms manufacturing processes, the mechanisms of various firearms, and the linking of a particular bullet or spent cartridge with a suspected weapon

  • The origins and development of new science in firearms, including controversies, pioneers, and an exposé of the "quack" purveyors of pseudo-science

  • Internal, external, and terminal (wound) ballistics

  • The nature, composition, and analytical detection of discharge residue left on a suspect

  • The role of the ballistics expert at all stages of a case, ranging from the scene of the shooting incident, the post mortem examinations, the examination and testing of exhibits at the laboratory, and the presentation of evidence in court

  • Recently introduced computer search techniques applied to captured and digitally stored images of marks left on fired bullets and spent cartridge cases

  • Manual microscopic comparison work and computer-based searches on digital images of bullet and cartridge case marks to determine if a particular weapon has been fired in previous cases





Firearms, the Law and Forensic Ballistics (Tayl...



Rifles are often involved in violent deaths such as homicide and suicide. Consequently, expert knowledge and experimental forensic investigations are important to clarify the nature of ballistic trauma when applied to the human head and neurocranium. This study investigated differences in entrance wound morphology with Synbone spheres which are described as being comparable to human flat bones. A series of ballistic experiments were conducted using two different rifle calibers (5.56 45 mm and 7.62 39 mm Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)). Synbone spheres were used for close-range 0.3 m simulated executions as well as at 25 m and 35 m to simulate urban and military engagements. Results were compared with previously published experimental studies using similar military ammunition. In our study, entry wound morphology closely resembles real forensic cases compared to exit wound and overall shape morphology independently of the distance and the caliber. Circumferential delamination was clearly visible with full metal jacket (FMJ) rounds, yielding similar damage pattern morphology to the human crania. This study documented the presence of hydraulic burst or shock in all ten rounds from all three distances. Krönlein shots were also observed in some cases. Synbone spheres constitute an acceptable synthetic surrogate for ballistic experiments. The present study offers new initial data on the behavior of Synbone proxies in ballistic testing of military ammunitions; FMJ gunshot injuries to the human head, for distances that have not previously been published, suggesting that efficient tests can take place under these conditions. Further research on experimental ballistics with a larger number of controlled factors and multiple repetitions is recommended to verify the results of this pilot study before applied in forensic simulations.


Forensic datasets are typically compared only within their respective discipline, such as DNA, fingerprints/latent prints, firearms, footwear, drugs, and toxicology. However, recent advances in information technology and increased digitization that allow massive quantities of forensic data to be stored, indexed, searched, and cross-referenced have made it possible for some common types of forensic data to be cataloged and compared between cases at an evidence-to-evidence level. This capability is especially valuable for comparing data from cellphone and other digital and multimedia evidence, which may include terabytes of data.


At a murder trial, the judge did not abuse his discretion in admitting in evidence expert forensic ballistics testimony by a State trooper identifying a particular firearm as the one used in the shootings, or in denying the defendant's request for a hearing regarding the admissibility of this testimony, where such evidence has long been deemed admissible by this court, and where the judge had a reasonable basis to conclude that the expert testimony could assist the jury in determining whether any of the weapons recovered by police were used in the shootings [843-845]; further, there was no abuse of discretion in the condition imposed by the judge on the admission of the testimony on direct examination (i.e., requiring the expert to inform the jury of the limitations of his opinion) [845-846], and, considering the entirety of the expert's testimony, no prejudicial error arose from the expert's testimony on cross-examination and redirect examination that lacked the limitations imposed by the judge on direct examination [846].


This court concluded that, where defense counsel at a criminal trial is furnished in discovery with the documentation needed to prepare an effective cross- examination, where a jury are provided with the necessary background regarding the theory and methodology of forensic ballistics, and where an opinion matching a particular firearm to recovered projectiles or cartridge casings is limited to a "reasonable degree of ballistic certainty," a jury will be assisted in reaching a verdict by having the benefit of the opinion, as well as the information needed to evaluate the limitations of such an opinion and the weight it deserves. [846-850]


GANTS, J. A jury in the Superior Court convicted the defendant on two indictments charging murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and felony-murder for the shooting deaths of Amy Dumas and Robert Finnerty. The defendant was also convicted of armed home invasion and unlawfully carrying a firearm. [Note 1] On appeal, the defendant argues that he should be granted a new trial because the trial judge erred by improperly admitting in evidence: (1) expert forensic ballistics


A forensic ballistics and firearms identification expert, Trooper Brian Lombard of the State police firearms identification unit, testified that he compared the three nine millimeter projectiles and cartridge casings recovered at the scene of the shooting and during the autopsy of Amy Dumas with test firings from the Intratec AB-10 nine millimeter handgun found on the third-floor landing of 17 Morris Street. Based on those comparisons, Trooper Lombard stated that in his opinion all three cartridge casings and projectiles from the shootings had come from the Intratec handgun. Trooper Lombard also noted, however, that as a matter of science, he could not exclude every other nine millimeter weapon with similar barrel characteristics to the Intratec handgun.


3. Admission of forensic ballistics or firearms identification evidence. The defendant contends that the judge erred by admitting in evidence Trooper Lombard's expert opinion that the Intratec AB-10 handgun found at 17 Morris Street fired the projectiles and cartridge casings recovered from the scene of the shooting and from Dumas's body. The defendant further contends that the judge erred by denying his request for a Daubert-Lanigan hearing regarding the admissibility of this opinion. See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993); Commonwealth v. Lanigan, 419 Mass. 15 (1994). The defendant raised these claims before trial through a motion in limine and again at trial, adequately preserving these issues for appeal.


first in the nation to uphold the admissibility of forensic ballistics evidence in the form of expert testimony and comparison photographs. [Note 16] See 4 D.L. Faigman, M.J. Saks, J. Sanders, & E.K. Cheng, Modern Scientific Evidence: The Law and Science of Expert Testimony 652 (2009); Commonwealth v. Best, supra. Nevertheless, the accuracy and reliability of forensic ballistics evidence have recently been the focus of significant legal and scientific scrutiny. See Ballistic Imaging, supra at 1-87; National Research Council, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward 150-155 (2009) (Strengthening Forensic Science). See generally Schwartz, A Systemic Challenge to the Reliability and Admissibility of Firearms and Toolmark Identification, 6 Colum. Sci. & Tech. L. Rev. 1 (2005). Concerns about both the lack of a firm scientific basis for evaluating the reliability of forensic ballistics evidence and the subjective nature of forensic ballistics comparisons have prompted many courts to reexamine the admissibility of such evidence. See United States v. Willock, 696 F. Supp. 2d 536, 546-547, 555-574 (D. Md. 2010); United States v. Taylor, 663 F. Supp. 2d 1170, 1173-1180 (D.N.M. 2009); United States v. Glynn, 578 F. Supp. 2d 567, 568-575 (S.D.N.Y. 2008); United States vs. Diaz, No. CR 05-00167 WHA (N.D. Cal. Feb. 12, 2007); United States v. Natson, 469 F. Supp. 2d 1253, 1259-1262 (M.D. Ga. 2007); United States v. Monteiro, 407 F. Supp. 2d 351, 354-375 (D. Mass. 2006); United States v. Green, 405 F. Supp. 2d 104, 106-124 (D. Mass. 2005); State v. Fleming, 194 Md. App. 76, 97-109 (2010). See also Commonwealth vs. Meeks, SUCR2002-10961, SUCR2003-10575 (Sept. 27, 2006).


contains one of the most comprehensive evaluations of the science underpinning the field of forensic ballistics, accepted as "a minimal baseline standard [that] firearms-related toolmarks are not completely random and volatile; one can find similar marks on bullets and cartridge cases from the same gun." [Note 23] Ballistic Imaging, supra at 3. But the NRC report also recognized that there are two main problems with the present state of the art of firearms identification.


At the motion hearing, the defense argued that the findings of the NRC report called into question the reliability of forensic ballistics expert testimony and that a Daubert-Lanigan hearing was required to assess the admissibility of the evidence. The judge, who had read the report, gave careful and extensive


consideration to the matter, and thoroughly questioned the prosecutor about Trooper Lombard's proffered testimony. The prosecutor stated that Trooper Lombard would testify to his observations regarding the various kinds of toolmarks on the projectiles and cartridge casings, including the "unique" or individual characteristic markings, and render an opinion of a match "based upon his training and experience and to a degree of scientific certainty." The judge concluded that, although the NRC report called into question the certainty with which a forensic ballistics match could be declared, the report clearly indicated that similar markings could be found on projectiles and cartridge casing from the same weapon and that firearm examiners could compare these markings, albeit subjectively. Thus, the judge determined that Trooper Lombard's testimony would be admissible without a Daubert-Lanigan hearing, but he conditioned and limited the scope of the expert's opinion. The judge ruled that the trooper could testify "to a degree of scientific certainty" that the recovered projectiles were fired by the nine millimeter firearm seized at 17 Morris Street provided he also admitted that he could not exclude the possibility that the projectiles were fired by another nine millimeter firearm. [Note 26] 041b061a72


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