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People v. Kelly

Supreme Court of California
549 P.2d 1240 (1976)


The state of California (plaintiff) prosecuted Robert Kelly (defendant) for extortion. The victim permitted police to tape two phone calls in which the caller made extortionate threats. Police officer Ernest Nash used a new voiceprint analysis technique to compare the tapes with a known recording of Kelly's voice and concluded the tapes matched the recording. At trial, the state introduced the tapes as evidence and Nash testified voiceprint analysis was reliable. Nash was an experienced voiceprint technician and longtime promoter of voiceprint analysis. However, Nash lacked the necessary scientific qualifications to assess its reliability, which many scientists disputed. Nash did not represent their views in his testimony and neither party introduced other evidence on the reliability issue. The jury convicted Kelly. On appeal to the Supreme Court of California, Kelly argued Nash's testimony failed to establish the reliability of voiceprint analysis and the tapes should have been excluded from evidence.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Richardson, J.)

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