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In 2019, the Alaska Supreme Court overruled the twenty-year-old precedent established in State v. Coon that limited appellate review of trial courts’ rulings on the validity and admissibility of scientific evidence in a Daubert context. In State v. Sharpe , the court rejected the abuse of discretion standard, instead applying a more stringent de novo review in evaluating the trial courts’ determinations about the reliability of the scientific theory or technique underlying an expert’s testimony. Sharpe arose from three consolidated cases, all of which included evidence from the identical type of polygraph test admitted or excluded based on a single evidentiary hearing on the validity of the polygraph test. These conflicting and arbitrary outcomes demonstrated the real capacity for inconsistencies that appellate courts would not have been able to correct for under the old abuse of discretion standard, highlighting the very concerns raised by the dissent in Coon . Now, under this more stringent appellate standard, it is all the more important for practitioners to develop comprehensive records surrounding scientific evidence. In developing these trial records, practitioners should look to the supreme court’s analysis in Sharpe for guidance on some of the most important factors appellate courts will likely rely on in their review.
Sarah Laws & Ryan Kuchinski, The Need for a Sharpe Appellate Record: Why a Clear and Complete Record on Expert Qualifications is More Important Than Ever, 37 Alaska Law Review 119-126 (2020)
Available at: https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/alr/vol37/iss1/6