Tuesday, February 15, 2005

PC-CRASH evidence inadmissible under Frye (in this case)

Two men were riding in a new BMW Z-3 convertible when it crashed into a mailbox and a tree. Both men were thrown from the car. One was killed; the other sustained serious injuries (including permanent brain damage). The survivor -- who was also the car's owner -- was prosecuted for vehicular homicide.

But was he the driver? He said he wasn't -- in fact, he said, his gout had made him unable to drive a manual transmission on the fateful day.

The state's expert witness used accident-reconstruction evidence that had been generated by use of the PC-CRASH computer program to show that he was the driver.

Division 1 reversed and remanded, holding that PC-CRASH did not satisfy the Frye test for this purpose -- analyzing multiple-occupant movement within a vehicle during a multiple-collision accident. State v. Sipin, --- P.3d ----, 2005 WL 341703 (Wash. App. Feb. 14, 2005) Find Result - 2005 WL 341703. The court distinguished State v. Phillips, 123 Wash.App. 761, 98 P.3d 838 (Wash. App. Div. 2, Oct. 5, 2004), because PC-CRASH was used in that case for a different purpose: analyzing the movement of a vehicle (not two bodies) in a single-collision accident.

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