JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – The Missouri Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would establish a new standard for vetting expert witnesses in jury trials.
The proposal, which passed on a 21-11 vote, would allow judges to decide whether experts’ testimony would be reliable and based on “sufficient facts” and “reliable principles and methods,” as well as being “reliably applied” to the facts of the case. Missouri judges currently admit expert testimony if it’s based on facts “reasonably relied upon by experts in the field.”
The bill includes exemptions for cases that aren’t heard before a jury as well as family courts, juvenile courts and probate courts.
The legislation now goes to the governor’s desk, where it is likely to get a signature. Republican Gov. Eric Greitens called on the state Legislature to adopt this standard in his State of the State address.
A similar version of the bill passed both chambers last year but was vetoed when it reached then-Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk.
In debate on the floor Wednesday, supporters urged Senators to allow Missouri to join 42 other states and federal courts in applying the stricter standard in the bill sometimes called the “Daubert Standard.”
Sen. Doug Libla said the current Missouri statute is “rudimentary” and doesn’t do enough to prevent “junk science” from being presented to a jury.
“If you’re going to be presenting evidence as an expert witness, then you need to prove that you are indeed an expert in that field,” Libla said.
Opponents said the standards would make cases more expensive by requiring more time from attorneys and more money to bring experts to a pretrial hearing to vet witnesses.
It would also prevent attorneys and citizens from making decisions about who to bring to court, Sen. Ryan Silvey said.
“We should be giving our constituents the liberty to go to the courts and make the case they want to make,” Silvey said.
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