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October 29, 2009

In 1923, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, affirming the exclusion of an expert witness at trial, stated:

Just when a scientific principle or discovery crosses the line between the experimental and demonstrable stages is difficult to define. Somewhere in this twilight zone the evidential force of the principle must be recognized, and while courts will go a long way in admitting expert testimony deduced from a well recognized scientific principle or discovery, the thing from which the deduction is made must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs.

Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923) (emphasis added).This is known as the “general acceptance” or “Frye” standard, and has been interpreted to mean that scientists, and not judges, should determine the admissibility of expert evidence. Thus, as some courts have recognized, Frye focuses “primarily on counting scientists’ votes, rather than on verifying the soundness of a scientific conclusion. …” In re Commitment of Simons, 213 Ill. 2d 523, 532 (2004).

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