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An expert is one whose opinions depend upon special knowledge with which he can assist the jury. He need not be a professional, but may be a lay person who has special knowledge superior to men in general through actual experience or careful study. He need not have the highest degree of skill or knowledge, but that lack of degree goes to the weight of his testimony before the trier of fact and not to admissibility.
William Wayne Macumber was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to serve two concurrent terms of life imprisonment. Macumber appealed and contended that the trial judge erred in excluding Charles M. Byers from testifying as an expert witness. A critical item of evidence linking Macumber to the murders was the fact that shell casings found at the scene allegedly were marked in being discharged from the murder weapon by an ejector like that in the .45 calibre semiautomatic pistol possessed by the appellant. The testimony of Byers was offered by the defense to counter the testimony of a prosecution witness who had said that the shells could only have been fired by that one pistol. The trial judge did not find Byers sufficiently qualified to be able to give an expert opinion and refused to allow his testimony into evidence.
Did the trial court err in excluding the testimony of Byers because he does not have a degree in ejector markings?
The court held that it was sufficient that the expert qualified as an expert in firearms identification without having qualified as a specialist in the comparison of ejector markings. During the course of the trial, the expert was able to have formed an opinion as to the ejector markings based on his expertise in the general area of firearms identification. The expert's lack of a degree in ejector markings went to weight not to admissibility. Macumber also contended error in the exclusion, on grounds of attorney-client privilege, of the testimony of two attorneys that allegedly heard the confession by another person who had subsequently died. However, the court held that the statutory attorney-client privilege survived death and could not be waived by the attorneys. Finally, substantial evidence supported that Macumber’s consent to the search of his home was voluntary in all respects.