A judge indicated Monday he was leaning in favor of allowing the testimony of a Kentucky State Police firearms expert at the upcoming trial of a Bowling Green man.
Vincent Ficklin is scheduled to face a jury trial Sept. 22 on charges of murder and first-degree burglary in the death of Timothy Massey, 41, of Bowling Green.
Massey’s body was found Feb. 12, 2017, in a residence on West 15th Avenue, and police suspect Ficklin, 48, of causing Massey’s death two days earlier at the residence.
On Monday, Steven Hughes, a forensic scientist specialist with KSP’s Jefferson Regional Lab in Louisville, appeared before Warren Circuit Judge John Grise to offer testimony about his findings in the murder investigation and to fend off challenges to his scientific field raised by Ficklin’s attorney, Jason McGee of the state Department of Public Advocacy.
Hughes analyzed two cartridge casings and two bullets, one each taken from the crime scene in Bowling Green and from a different shooting in Simpson County in which Ficklin is also a suspect.
Hughes said his analysis of the items led him to conclude to a reasonable degree of scientific probability that the two cartridge casings were fired from the same weapon, and he could not confirm or eliminate the possibility that the projectiles were from the same firearm.
Police have not recovered a firearm in the shooting of Massey.
Before Monday’s hearing, McGee filed a motion to either exclude Hughes’ testimony or limit what he was able to address about his findings in front of a jury.
McGee argued that the methodology used by Hughes and other ballistics experts to analyze whether shell casings and bullets were fired from a specific weapon is not grounded in science.
“There is really no scientific basis for the conclusions in the area of firearms and tool mark examinations,” McGee said. “There is no objective data and the conclusions are based on the determination of each individual examiner, and there could be thousands of standards (of analysis). ... It’s completely subjective.”
Hughes testified that his findings involved analyzing and comparing markings on the recovered cartridge cases and bullets through a microscope and his written report was subject to peer review.
Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron noted that Hughes has been allowed to testify as an expert in other criminal cases.
Hughes also said the type of ballistics analysis he performs has been in existence for nearly 100 years.
Grise said he would likely issue a written ruling on the matter, but indicated at the end of Monday’s hearing that he was inclined to allow Hughes to testify about his findings while allowing McGee to question him on the validity of his method of analysis when the case goes to trial.
“Many forms of science are subject to considerable controversy, but that doesn’t mean they’re not scientific disciplines,” Grise said.
– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.