Crime Scene Analysis and Police Procedures Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Part

Plaintiff sued defendants after a physical altercation on plaintiff’s property.  The plaintiffs hired a crime scene analysis expert witness and police procedures expert witness to assist in their case.  The defendants filed two motions to exclude, which the court granted in part and denied in part.

Facts:  This case (Bratt et al v. Genovese et al – United States District Court – Middle District of Florida – December 12th, 2017) involves a physical altercation between a deputy and owners of private property.  The Plaintiffs (“Youmans”) allege that the Deputy George trespassed on their property without cause.  In order to prove their case, the Youmans hired two expert witnesses:  Arthur Young (crime scene analysis expert witness) and Larry Gibbs Turner (police procedures expert witness).  The defendants filed motions to exclude the testimony of these experts.

Discussion:  Mr. Young made several opinions that were based on a review of photographs that were taken at the scene of the incident.  The defendants maintain that Mr. Young’s opinions are not reliable as merely viewing photographs is not proper scientific methodology under the Daubert standard.  The court mentioned that Mr. Young did not visit the property, did not interview anyone, and did not conduct any testing of his own.  After determining that Mr. Young is qualified to testify on bloodstain pattern analysis, the court opined that Mr. Young’s methodology of looking at stains in photographs has not been tested, nor has it been the subject of peer review.

The court further declared that while peer review and publication are not requirements under Daubert, it is relevant in concluding the scientific validity of a methodology.  Thus, the court opined that his methodology is reliable based on testimony produced in other courts about blood spatter analysis.

In addition, the defendants argue that the Mr. Young’s testimony will not assist the trier of fact because of a “large analytical leap” between the opinion and the facts.  The court agreed with the defendants on one part of their argument: that Mr. Young’s opinion about the implausibility of Deputy George’s head hitting the table.  Thus, the court opined that the motion to exclude Mr. Young’s testimony should be granted in part and denied in part.

The defendants also argue that the testimony of police procedures expert witness Larry Gibbs Turner should be excluded.  After determining that Mr. Turner is qualified to provide expert witness testimony in this case, the court moved on to Mr. Turner’s methodology.  The court opined that Turner did not perform any testing and has not pointed to peer review on his theory around violations of Fourth Amendment for warrantless entries into private residences.  In addition, the court opined that Mr. Turner’s expert opinions are legal in nature and not factual.

That said, the court determined that Mr. Turner will be allowed to testify at the trial, but must be limited to his opinions on police customs and practices.

Conclusion: The motions to exclude the expert witness testimony of Arthur Young and Larry Gibbs Turner were granted in part and denied in part.