Ratliff v. State, 110 P.3d 982 (2005)


In the superior court, Ratliff objected to Hammer's testimony. He argued that shoeprint comparison was not valid science under the test enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.,1 and later adopted by the Alaska Supreme Court in State v. Coon.

Superior Court Judge Larry R. Weeks held an evidentiary hearing on this issue. At this hearing, Hammer was questioned regarding her training and experience, and also regarding the procedures and methods used by her and other shoeprint examiners. Hammer described how shoeprints are taken and preserved, and she described how these prints are then compared to particular shoes.

At the conclusion of this hearing, Judge Weeks concluded that the type of shoeprint analysis performed by Ms. Hammer was not "scientific" for purposes of the Daubert-Coon rule. Alternatively, Judge Weeks found that the type of shoeprint analysis described by Ms. Hammer met the Daubert criteria. Finally, Judge Weeks concluded that Hammer's testimony was admissible under Evidence Rule 702 because her specialized knowledge and training in this area would assist the jury in understanding the shoeprint evidence and assessing its significance.

In this appeal, Ratliff takes issue with Judge Weeks's conclusion that the Daubert-Coon test did not apply to Hammer's testimony—i.e., the judge's conclusion that shoeprint analysis does not depend on the sort of scientific methodology governed by Daubert and Coon. Ratliff takes the position that the Daubert criteria apply, not just to scientific testimony, but to all expert testimony that is based on technical training or specialized knowledge. Accordingly, Ratliff contends that Judge Weeks abused his discretion when he ruled that it was unnecessary to subject Hammer's testimony to a Daubert analysis. Ratliff asks us to vacate Judge Weeks's ruling, to remand his case to the superior court, and to direct Judge Weeks to conduct a Daubert analysis of Hammer's testimony.


For these reasons, we conclude that Judge Weeks committed no error when he overruled Ratliff's objection to the shoeprint evidence.

The judgement of the superior court is AFFIRMED.

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