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Frye v. United States

Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia
Dec 3, 1923
293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923)

Summary

holding that to "admit 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"

Summary of this case from Smith v. Secretary, Department of Corrections

Opinion

No. 3968

Submitted November 7, 1923

Decided December 3, 1923

Appeal from the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. James Alphonzo Frye was convicted of murder, and he appeals. Affirmed.

Richard V. Mattingly and Foster Wood, both of Washington, D.C., for appellant.

Peyton Gordon and J. H. Bilbrey, both of Washington, D.C., for the United States.

Before SMYTH, Chief Justice, VAN ORSDEL, Associate Justice, and MARTIN, Presiding Judge of the United States Court of Customs Appeals.


Appellant, defendant below, was convicted of the crime of murder in the second degree, and from the judgment prosecutes this appeal.

A single assignment of error is presented for our consideration. In the course of the trial counsel for defendant offered an expert witness to testify to the result of a deception test made upon defendant. The test is described as the systolic blood pressure deception test. It is asserted that blood pressure is influenced by change in the emotions of the witness, and that the systolic blood pressure rises are brought about by nervous impulses sent to the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Scientific experiments, it is claimed, have demonstrated that fear, rage, and pain always produce a rise of systolic blood pressure, and that conscious deception or falsehood, concealment of facts, or guilt of crime, accompanied by fear of detection when the person is under examination, raises the systolic blood pressure in a curve, which corresponds exactly to the struggle going on in the subject's mind, between fear and attempted control of that fear, as the examination touches the vital points in respect of which he is attempting to deceive the examiner.

In other words, the theory seems to be that truth is spontaneous, and comes without conscious effort, while the utterance of a falsehood requires a conscious effort, which is reflected in the blood pressure. The rise thus produced is easily detected and distinguished from the rise produced by mere fear of the examination itself. In the former instance, the pressure rises higher than in the latter, and is more pronounced as the examination proceeds, while in the latter case, if the subject is telling the truth, the pressure registers highest at the beginning of the examination, and gradually diminishes as the examination proceeds.

Prior to the trial defendant was subjected to this deception test, and counsel offered the scientist who conducted the test as an expert to testify to the results obtained. The offer was objected to by counsel for the government, and the court sustained the objection. Counsel for defendant then offered to have the proffered witness conduct a test in the presence of the jury. This also was denied.

Counsel for defendant, in their able presentation of the novel question involved, correctly state in their brief that no cases directly in point have been found. The broad ground, however, upon which they plant their case, is succinctly stated in their brief as follows:

"The rule is that the opinions of experts or skilled witnesses are admissible in evidence in those cases in which the matter of inquiry is such that inexperienced persons are unlikely to prove capable of forming a correct judgment upon it, for the reason that the subject-matter so far partakes of a science, art, or trade as to require a previous habit or experience or study in it, in order to acquire a knowledge of it. When the question involved does not lie within the range of common experience or common knowledge, but requires special experience or special knowledge, then the opinions of witnesses skilled in that particular science, art, or trade to which the question relates are admissible in evidence."

Numerous cases are cited in support of this rule. 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.

We think the systolic blood pressure deception test has not yet gained such standing and scientific recognition among physiological and psychological authorities as would justify the courts in admitting expert testimony deduced from the discovery, development, and experiments thus far made.

The judgment is affirmed.


Summaries of

Frye v. United States

Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia
Dec 3, 1923
293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923)

holding that to "admit 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"

Summary of this case from Smith v. Secretary, Department of Corrections

holding that scientific evidence is admissible only if the scientific principle is "sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs"

Summary of this case from State v. Henley

holding that scientific evidence is admissible if its underlying methodology has general acceptance in the relevant scientific community

Summary of this case from Com. v. Smith

holding that to be admissible, expert testimony must be premised on principles or techniques generally accepted in the relevant scientific field

Summary of this case from Smith v. State

holding that in order for expert scientific testimony to be admissible, it must be "generally accepted" as reliable in the relevant scientific community

Summary of this case from State v. Moeller

holding that expert opinion based on scientific technique is inadmissible unless technique is generally accepted as reliable in relevant scientific community

Summary of this case from State v. Beard

holding that, to be admissible in a court, scientific, expert evidence requires "general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs."

Summary of this case from Commonwealth v. Dupont

holding novel scientific evidence admissible if methodology underlying evidence has general acceptance in relevant scientific community

Summary of this case from In re M.M.-A.

holding that scientific evidence will be admissible only if it has "gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs"

Summary of this case from Russell v. Ill. Cent. R.R. Co.

holding that scientific evidence is admissible only where it is based on methods that are generally accepted in the relevant scientific community

Summary of this case from State v. Stoll

holding that with respect to scientific evidence, "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."

Summary of this case from Fleming v. State

holding that "the systolic blood pressure deception test has not yet gained such standing and scientific recognition . . . as would justify the courts in admitting expert testimony deduced from the discovery, development, and experiments thus far made."

Summary of this case from Montgomery Mutual v. Chesson

holding that novel scientific evidence may be admitted through expert testimony only if it has gained general acceptance in the field to which it relates

Summary of this case from Taylor v. State

holding that trial court did not err in refusing to admit expert witness's testimony regarding test to determine whether examinee was telling truth where there was no evidence that such test had "gained . . . standing and scientific recognition among physiological authorities"

Summary of this case from J.H.C. v. State

holding that a party wishing to introduce expert testimony involving novel scientific evidence must demonstrate that the relevant scientific community has reached general acceptance of the principles and methodology employed by the expert witness before the expert witness may testify regarding his or her conclusions

Summary of this case from Golovach v. Com., Dept. of Transp

holding admissibility of proposed expert testimony is conditioned on whether the scientific basis for the opinion has "gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs"

Summary of this case from State v. J.J.-R.

holding admissibility of proposed expert testimony is conditioned on whether the scientific basis for the opinion has "gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs"

Summary of this case from State v. P.P.D.

ruling that expert opinion based on a scientific technique is inadmissible unless the technique is "generally accept[ed]" as reliable in the relevant scientific community

Summary of this case from Veney v. U.S

affirming refusal to admit evidence of polygraph examination; scientific evidence inadmissible unless generally accepted in the pertinent scientific field

Summary of this case from Garcia v. Borden, Inc.

rejecting "systolic blood pressure deception test" because it had not gained general acceptance

Summary of this case from Benn v. United States

rejecting precursor to the modern polygraph test

Summary of this case from Personal Restraint of Young

allowing expert evidence that had "gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs"

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Crisp

In Frye, the trial court refused to admit the results of a systolic blood pressure test (a crude precursor to the polygraph test), which the defendant sought to introduce in his murder trial.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Prince-Oyibo

In Frye, the court stated that a new scientific discovery would be admitted into evidence when it had gained general acceptance in the field in which it belonged.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Two Bulls

In Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923), this Court set forth the standard by which this and other Circuits have analyzed questions of admissibility of expert testimony based on new methods of scientific measurement.

Summary of this case from United States v. Shorter
Case details for

Frye v. United States

Case Details

Full title:FRYE v. UNITED STATES

Court:Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia

Date published: Dec 3, 1923

Citations

293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923)

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