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Firearm Forensics and Defense Issues in Criminal Cases

In March 2018, Joseph King, Emily Beckman and firearm expert Jay Mason taught a 2-hour course on firearm forensics and related defense issues on behalf of Virginia CLE.  Both Joe and Emily are experienced trying homicide and serious felony cases involving firearms and provided examples of how this evidence can used during trial.  They also provided, in the course materials, sample direct and cross-examination of firearm and gunshot residue experts from actual trials litigated by the firm and other documentary materials, such as jury instructions and certificates of analysis.

Jay Mason, one of the presenters, is an independent forensic consultant.  He is recently retired from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and has over 30 years of experience as a firearm expert.  Jay is a fantastic well of knowledge about firearm and ammunition forensic analysis and has testified in hundreds of serious cases involving firearms, including capital murder–including a number of trials litigated by Joe and Emily.

As discussed during the course, firearm, toolmark, and gunshot residue evidence often plays a significant role in homicide and serious felony cases.  It can be key evidence tying a defendant to a crime or have significant exculpatory value in supporting a self-defense or mistaken-identity claim.  As such, understanding firearm evidence by defense counsel can be critical in determining its exculpatory value and develop effective cross-examination of government experts.