FROM TRIMBLE CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE KAREN A. CONRAD, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 14-CR-00014
FOR APPELLANT: Andy Beshear, Attorney General of Kentucky,
Courtney Tigue Baxter, Lagrange, Kentucky
ARGUMENT FOR APPELLANT: Courtney Tigue Baxter, Lagrange,
Kentucky, Joshua Elliott Clubb, Lagrange, Kentucky
FOR APPELLEE: Kathleen K. Schmidt, Department of Public
Advocacy, Erin Hoffman Yang, Frankfort, Kentucky.
ARGUMENT FOR APPELLEES: Erin Hoffman Yang, Frankfort,
Kentucky Elizabeth Curtin, Lagrange, Kentucky Melanie L.
Lowe, Frankfort, Kentucky
BEFORE: COMBS, D. LAMBERT, AND THOMPSON, JUDGES.
OPINION VACATING AND REMANDING
LAMBERT, D., JUDGE
Commonwealth of Kentucky brings this appeal from an
interlocutory order excluding expert testimony regarding
evidence. The Commonwealth offered the evidence during Robert
L. Baldwin's murder trial. After reviewing the record and
observing that the Trimble Circuit Court did not conduct a
Daubert hearing regarding the analytical
technology used to further test blood from the crime scene,
we vacate the order and remand.
early morning of November 27, 2013, Baldwin called the police
to report that he had discovered Angela Long's body.
Baldwin had been with Long the night before in her trailer. A
homicide investigation later ensued.
the evidence collected at the crime scene was a blood-soaked
claw hammer. A forensic analysis of the hammer revealed that
it contained DNA from two individuals, a major and a minor
contributor. Analysts identified Angela as the major DNA
contributor. They could not, however, conclusively determine
whether Baldwin was the minor DNA contributor. Regardless,
Baldwin was indicted for Angela's murder in early January
years later, in February 2016, the Commonwealth,
Baldwin's counsel, and the Kentucky State Police Crime
Lab shared a conference call. During that conference call, it
was revealed that the results from the prior DNA test could
be re-analyzed to determine whether Baldwin was the minor DNA
contributor. The Crime Lab explained that several other
states had employed a probabilistic software program called
TrueAllele for that very purpose. The Crime Lab eventually
ran a TrueAllele test, and according to the Commonwealth, the
results identified Baldwin as the minor DNA contributor.
the TrueAllele results now available, Baldwin petitioned the
circuit court for their exclusion. In the alternative,
Baldwin also requested that Cybergenetics, the developer of
the TrueAllele software, be forced to disclose the source
code for its computer program. The failure to disclose the
source code, Baldwin argued, would violate his Sixth
Amendment right to confront the witnesses against him.
a hearing on the motion to exclude, which occurred on April
28, 2016, the Commonwealth highlighted the probative value of
DNA evidence linking Baldwin to a potential murder weapon.
The Commonwealth also addressed Baldwin's constitutional
concerns by countering that TrueAllele was demonstrably
reliable and that experts interpreting the results, rather
than the computer program itself, would be testifying at
trial. The Commonwealth presented an affidavit from Dr. Mark
Perlin, TrueAllele's developer, which explained how those
skilled in the art of forensic data analysis had tested
TrueAllele and approved of its use in a number of
peer-reviewed articles. The Commonwealth also bolstered Dr.
Perlin's affidavit with documentation showing that
several state and federal courts had admitted TrueAllele
results into evidence, despite a Daubert or
Frye challenge. In ...