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Name: In re O.D.
Case #: A136370
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 11/27/2013

The Kelly rule does not apply to the ACE-V method of fingerprint analysis because it is not the type of scientific technique governed by that case. The juvenile court sustained a true finding the minor committed first degree burglary after admitting expert testimony that his palm print was found on the entry window of the victim’s home. The minor presented expert affidavits questioning the reliability of fingerprint comparisons for identification purposes, and sought to exclude the fingerprint evidence. On appeal, the minor challenged the court’s admission of fingerprint testimony under People v. Kelly (1976) 17 Cal.3d 24, asserting there is no longer general acceptance of fingerprint comparison in the relevant scientific community. Held: Affirmed. The prosecution’s fingerprint expert used the ACE-V fingerprint identification method, resulting in the identification of the minor as the number one potential match to fingerprints taken from the crime scene. As a matter of law, the ACE-V method is not the type of scientific technique governed by Kelly. The purpose of Kelly is to protect the jury from new scientific techniques that convey a misleading aura of certainty. The ACE-V method of fingerprint comparison, regardless of whether it is generally accepted in the scientific community, can be easily understood by a lay person and is not likely to convey a “misleading aura of certainty.” The process of comparing fingerprints is a visual one and the trier of fact is able to observe any similarities and differences. There was no suggestion that the prints were tampered with or altered. Although the Kelly rule is inapplicable to the ACE-V method, this type of expert testimony may still be excluded in a particular case if the standards of Evidence Code section 801 are not met.