Wednesday, January 22, 2014

FBI Agent Entitled to Qualified Immunity for Previous Expert Testimony

Kennedy v. Peele, 2014 WL 92251 (1/10/14) 9Col.) (unpub'd) - The 10th reverses a denial of qualified immunity in a ยง1983 case. The FBI agent defendant conducted, and testified about, a comparative bullet-lead analysis ("CBLA") of bullets used in murders that Mr. Kennedy was first convicted of. Subsequently the convictions were overturned in part because of doubts arising as to the reliability of CBLA. Mr. Kennedy was not entitled to relief because, unlike in a prior 10th case where the chemist lied about the results of her analysis, the agent did not lie about the bullets matching under CBLA. The agent only reported results with a greater degree of confidence than was warranted. The agent did not have a clearly established constitutional duty to relate the precise error rate or confidence interval of the tests. And at the time, 1993-1997, CBLA was widely accepted.