What is the difference between the Kelly-Frye and Daubert decisions?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Daubert ruling says that Rule 702 of Rules of Evidence allows reliable expert testimony to be considered regardless of acceptability by the scientific community as established in the Kelly/Frye test.

Frye and Daubert are both decisions involving rules of evidence regarding expert testimony.  Daubert replaced Kelly/Frye as the standard of evidence, determining that it was superseded by Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.

In U.S. v. Frye (1932) the D.C. Circuit court ruled that expert evidence is inadmissible if it does not follow generally accepted scientific practice.  The Frye case centered on expert testimony regarding a lie detector test.  It was determined inadmissible because the expert did not follow generally agreed upon scientific practice.  The decision was expanded upon in People v. Kelly in the California Supreme Court in 1976.  The standard remains that a procedure be “sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs” (definitions.uslegal.com), but the court concluded that voice print technology was too new.

We have expressly adopted the foregoing Frye test and California courts, when faced with a novel method of proof, have required a preliminary showing of general acceptance of the new technique in the relevant scientific community. (google scholar: People v. Kelly)

The Daubert case also focused on admissibility.   In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (1993), Daubert claimed that expert testimony should be included according to Rule 702, which states that the testimony “is the product of reliable principles and methods,” the expert is actually an expert, and there is sufficient data (Cornell).

Thus while Kelly/Frye blocks expert testimony as inadmissible unless it is commonly accepted scientific practice, the Daubert Rule states that federal law supersedes the ruling and declares any reliable expert testimony admissible.

There is still the burden to prove that an expert is reliable and had enough data, so a technique that is too new may still be deemed experimental and inadmissible.


For the text of People v. Kelly: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=12543270431783530321&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr

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