Until 15 years ago, Frye v. U.S., 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923), dominated the landscape of scientific evidence in the United States. Frye announced that before a proponent could elicit scientific testimony, the proponent had to demonstrate that the expert based his or her opinion on a “generally accepted” theory or technique.
Frye was the overwhelming majority view in the United States. 1 Giannelli et al., Scientific Evidence 1-5 (3d ed. 1999). The courts which followed Frye often championed the general-acceptance test as “an essentially conservative” standard designed to compensate for lay jurors’ supposed tendency to overvalue expert testimony. People v. Kelly, 549 P.2d 1240, 1244-45 (Calif. 1976). If the typical juror was likely to place so much faith in scientific testimony, the courts should cautiously and admit only testimony based on “tried and true” scientific theories.
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