Chemistry Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

Defendant is charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and using and carrying a firearm.  Plaintiff hired a Chemistry Expert Witness to provide expert witness testimony.  Defendant argues that this testimony should be excluded.  The court sides with the plaintiff.

Facts:  This case (United States v. Mercado-Gracia – United States District Court – District of New Mexico – July 18th, 2018) involves a traffic stop and subsequent arrest of the defendant.  The defendant was stopped for speeding.  After the officer utilized a drug detection dog on the vehicle, the officer found 7.25 pounds of heroin and a handgun in the car.  The defendant was charged with possession with intent to distribute and using and carrying a firearm.  The United States has filed an intent to call Alexandra Moninger (Chemistry Expert Witness).  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this testimony and requests a Daubert hearing.

Discussion:  Moninger will testify about the chemical composition of the substance seized in the case.  She will identify the substance as heroin in a weight exceeding more than 1 kilogram.  The government states that she determined the contents of the package using gas chromatography, gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy, a marquis color test, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.  The defendant argues that Moninger is not qualified to provide testimony in this case because her resume did not have the name of the University from which she obtained her degree in forensic science.  In addition, the defendants argue that Moninger’s analysis occurred two weeks after her certification as a forensic scientist and that she has only been an employee of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety for five months.

The court opines that the defendant is not challenging the methodology used by Moninger, but whether she is qualified to provide expert witness testimony in this case.  The court also states that the defendant is not disputing whether Moninger is certified as a qualified forensic scientist in controlled substance analysis, but relies on the fact that she has recently completed her certification.  The court opines that, based on her education and her certification at the time of the testing, the court is likely to deem her as qualified to testify in this case and that any arguments about the freshness of her certification go to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility.

Conclusion:  The court declines to hold a preliminary hearing to determine the qualifications of Alexandra Moninger.