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Missouri Senate Bills Concerning Expert Witnesses and the Death Penalty

26 Jan 2017 12:36 PM | Anonymous

My first few posts concerning the 2017 Missouri legislative session have focused on the House Judiciary Committee. In this post let’s take a look at two interesting bills in the Senate.

 SB200 – This is the same as SB591, which we looked at in the 2016 legislative session before it went through some modifications. This bill changes the standards applicable to expert witnesses in Missouri pursuant to RSMo 490.065. Jessi Baker’s official Senate summary on this is good so I’m going to copy it here:

"This act provides that current standards for admitting expert testimony in a civil action shall apply to legal actions adjudicated in probate court, juvenile court, family courts, or in actions involving divorce, marriage, adoption, child support orders, or protective orders.

In all other legal actions an expert witness may testify in a court proceeding if the expert has specialized knowledge that will help the trier of fact understand the evidence, the testimony is based on sufficient facts and the product of reliable principles, and if the expert has reliably applied such principles to the facts of the case.

An expert may base an opinion on facts in the case that the expert has been made aware of or personally observed. If experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on those kinds of facts in forming an opinion, the facts need not be admissible for the opinion to be admitted. If the facts would otherwise be inadmissible, the proponent may disclose them to the jury only if their probative value outweighs their prejudicial effect.

An expert witness shall not testify on the defendant's mental state which constitutes an element of the crime. An expert witness may state an opinion without first testifying to the underlying facts, but may be required to do so on cross-examination.

A real property owner is competent to testify as to the reasonable market value of his or her land, in accordance with certain case law listed in the act."

SB 277 – Senator Paul Wieland (R-Jefferson County) seeks to have the death penalty removed as a potential punishment for first-degree murder. This would cause repeal to numerous sections is Chapters 546 and 565 of Missouri’s Revised Statutes. This bill was tried the last few years in the Senate and for several recent years in the House. Any chance it will pass this time?  If it did, would Greitens sign it? I can’t recall from the campaign his stance on the death penalty, if any. He did campaign on being tougher on violent crimes though, which would certainly include first-degree murder.

Tim West, MO Legislative Monitor
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