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Fed. R. Evid. 704 states that 'testimony in the form of an opinion or inference otherwise admissible is not objectionable because it embraces an ultimate issue to be decided by the trier of fact.' However, Rule 704 was not intended to allow experts to offer opinions embodying legal conclusions. The Advisory Committee's Note thus states: The basic approach to opinions, lay and expert, in these rules is to admit them when helpful to the trier of fact. In order to render this approach fully effective and to allay any doubt on the subject, the so-called 'ultimate issue' rule is specifically abolished by the instant rule.


Older cases often contain strictures against allowing witnesses to express opinions upon ultimate issues, as a particular aspect of the rule against opinions. The rule was unduly restrictive, difficult of application, and generally served only to deprive the trier of fact of useful information. 7 Wigmore §§ 1920, 1921; McCormick § 12. The basis usually assigned for the rule, to prevent the witness from 'usurping the province of the jury,' is aptly characterized as 'empty rhetoric.' 7 Wigmore, § 1920, p. 17. Efforts to meet the felt needs of particular situations led to ...

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