Law Enforcement Expert Witness Testimony Not Allowed In Prisoner/Police Officer Altercation

Summary: Law Enforcement Expert Witness testimony not allowed as the court opined that his report offers legal conclusion.

Facts:  This case (Williams v. City of Houston Tx et al – United States District Court – Southern District of Texas – June 11th, 2019) involves an altercation that the plaintiff had with the defendants while incarcerated.  The plaintiff has taken into custody because he refused a field sobriety test.  The plaintiff has filed suit against the defendant for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and for state-law claims for assault and battery.  The plaintiff hired Roger Clark (Law Enforcement Expert Witness) to provide expert witness testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  Clark has been hired to opine on the City of Houston’s police training, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement standards on the use of force, and the Houston Police Department’s procedures relating to investigating excessive-force claims as well as disciplining officers who have used excessive force.

According to the plaintiff, Clark has been a consultant in more than 1,750 cases.  In addition, Clark has expertise in police officers’ use of force and police procedures and tactics.

Clark reviewed Williams’s complaint, video recordings of the incident in question, the Texas Commission, on Law Enforcement website, and other use-of-force instances in the prison.

The court opines that Clark’s opinions that the officer used excessive force, his conduct was criminal, he acted deliberately and without justification, and he violated Williams’s constitutional rights, will be excluded excluded because they encompass legal conclusions.

Other paragraphs in Clark’s report discuss the police department’s customs and practices.  Clark opines that the police department has a custom amounting to a policy of encouraging officers to ignore the constitutional rights of those who are arrested.  In addition, Clark opines  that the defendant espoused a reckless approach against unarmed citizens.  Whether the evidence shows this, the court opines, is a legal question for the court.

The court opines that Clark’s testimony that the city had a custom or practice of using excessive force against those who are arrested, and that the defendant knew of a prior pattern, is an inadmissible legal opinion.

In addition, Clark also opines that the videotapes show, which is information that is within a factfinder’s law knowledge which does not require specialized knowledge, training, or education.  This testimony does not make Clark uniquely helpful to the finder of fact.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Roger Clark is granted