Maryland Supreme Court Rules on Expert Witnesses Testifying in Cases Involving Firearms

New ruling in Maryland restricts firearms experts from testifying that a bullet is known to have come from a specific gun.

In an opinion published on the Maryland Courts website, the Maryland Supreme Court voted 4-3 that forensic experts may not certify that a particular crime scene bullet or bullets came from a specified gun. These expert firearms witnesses can only say if markings on a bullet are “consistent” or “inconsistent” with those that would be on bullet casings that came from a specific gun.

Chief Judge Matthew Fader wrote the ruling opinion in Kobina Ebo Abruquah v. State of Maryland. From the opinion:

Applying the analysis required by Rochkind v. Stevenson, 471 Md. 1 (2020), we conclude that the examiner should not have been permitted to offer an unqualified opinion that the crime scene bullets were fired from Mr. Abruquah’s gun.

The opinion went on:

The reports, studies, and testimony presented to the circuit court demonstrate that the firearms identification methodology employed in this case can support reliable conclusions that patterns and markings on bullets are consistent or inconsistent with those on bullets fired from a particular firearm. Those reports, studies, and testimony do not, however, demonstrate that that methodology can reliably support an unqualified conclusion that such bullets were fired from a particular firearm.

The Maryland Office of the Attorney General followed up with a statement clarifying that examiners can still testify about the nature of bullets found at crime scenes and a particular firearm.

Read the full opinion from Chief Judge Fader.