Expert Article Library

Case Name: United States v. Mullins Click here for the full text of the case)

Court: 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

Date: May 1, 2006

Expert: Firearms expert. Richard Vasquez, a firearms enforcement officer of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

Issue: Whether the District Court erred in admitting the testimony of Vasquez?

Summary of case: Defendant was charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Defendant was in possession of a starter gun. (A gun designed to only shoot blanks with a hardened pin blocking the barrel) Prosecutors had to show that it either was a firearm, or could readily be converted into one.

Role of the expert: Richard Vasquez testified that the starter gun could readily be converted to expel a projectile within one hour. He stated that the gun met the federal definition of a firearm.

Challenges to the Expert's testimony: The defense argued that the expert opinion of Vasquez was unreliable and should have been excluded. They argued that much of the expert’s testing was done on a different style gun. Although this is the case, it does not mean that the testimony should be excluded as Vasquez had independently visually inspected the gun at issue, and this is what his opinion was based on. The Court of Appeals held that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in allowing Vasquez to testify as an expert witness for the prosecution.

Summary prepared by M. Lanzone, Student, University of California, Hastings College of Law