Forensic Psychiatrist Expert Witness Allowed

Plaintiff’s decedent filed this civil case against the defendant after plaintiff was found dead in his cell.  The plaintiff hired a forensic psychiatrist expert witness to provide testimony.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude the testimony and report.  The court denied the motion.

Facts:  This case (Ferreira et al v. Arpaio et al – United States District Court – District of Arizona – November 16th, 2017) involves the death of a prison inmate at the hands of another inmate.   Zachary Daughtry was arrested in December 2013.  On July 9th, 2014, Ryan Bates was placed in a cell with Daughtry.  Later that evening, officers passed the cell and found Bates Standing over Daughtry, who was lying in a pool of blood.  He later died.  Daughtry’s decedent filed this present civil rights suit.  The Plaintiff hired forensic psychiatrist expert witness Bhushan S. Agharkar, M.D. to provide rebuttal testimony.  The Defendants have filed numerous motions to exclude Dr. Agharkar’s testimony, including a Daubert motion.

Discussion:  The Defendants argue that Dr. Agharkar’s expert opinion testimony is not reliable and are not relevant or helpful to the jury.  First, the Defendants allege that the report is not supported by the necessary scientific methodology as well as being conclusory.   In addition, they argue that his opinions do not rest on helpful scholarship.  They content that Dr. Agharkar based his opinions of the underlying criminal case against Bates.

The Plaintiffs state that Dr. Agharkar did base his opinions on his own experience, concepts of psychiatry, and the facts on the record.  In addition, they allege that any arguments of this type should go to the weight of the testimony, not its admissibility.   In its opinion, the court opined that Dr. Agharkar has the training, experience, and professional degrees to support the contention that his testimony is reliable and relevant.  In addition, the court opined that his conclusions are based on scientific facts and are reliable.

The Defendants also argue that Dr. Agharkar’s opinion are not relevant to the failure to protect claim.  In addition, they state that his opinions stem from his interviews with Bates after the incident and is not relevant to Bates’s mental health state on the date of the incident.  The Plaintiffs retort by stating the opinions are based on all that was learned about Bates’s mental health, in the course of his work on the criminal and civil case.  In addition, Dr. Agharkar had two interviews with Bates in relation to his opinion.

The court opined that Dr. Agharkar’s opinions are relevant and that any arguments about the interviews with Bates goes to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility.

Last, the Defendants argue that Dr. Agharkar does not work in a correctional setting and does not have experience in corrections.  Thus, his opinions on the mental health care to detainees should be excluded.  The court opined that even though he is not a “correctional” psychiatrist, he is still qualified to provide expert witness testimony in this case.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of  Bhushan S. Agharkar, M.D. is denied.