Police Procedures Expert Witness Testimony Allowed, In Part, In Unlawful Seizure Litigation

Police Procedures Expert Witness Testimony partially allowed, as the court opined that his testimony will be limited to professional standards.

Facts: This case (RAINSBERGER v. BENNER – United States District Court – Southern District of Indiana – November 18th, 2019) involves a claim of unlawful seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and unreasonable or malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.  William Rainsberger, the plaintiff, claims that the defendant, Charles Benner, submitted a probable cause affidavit that contained lies and was weakened by the omission of exculpatory evidence.  The plaintiff has hired Dr. Kim Rossmo (Police Procedures Expert Witness) to provide expert witness testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The court notes that Dr. Rossmo is a former police officer who has lectured and researched on criminal justice issues.  In addition, he is the University Chair in Criminology at Texas State University.  Also, the court states that Dr. Rossmo is the author of books and numerous journal articles and has lectured and trained police officers around the country and the world on criminal investigatory failures.

In order to create his report on this case, Dr. Rossmo reviewed materials pertaining to the case, which included depositions taken from interested parties, police statements, and notes that Benner took.  The Court states that Dr. Rossmo opined that the investigation of the murder suffered from tunnel vision and confirmation bias. In addition, Dr. Rossmo opined that Detective Benner did not perform a thorough investigation and his affidavit had a number of false and misleading statements.

In short, Dr. Rossmo concluded that Benner “rushed to judgment, suffered from common cognitive errors like tunnel vision and confirmation bias, and failed to investigate alternative theories of the murder.”

Benner argues that Dr. Rossmo’s report and testimony should be excluded because they are not based on scientific facts or data, and are not the product of reliable principles and methods.

Benner argues that there are no tests of Benner’s theory, or standard by which an evaluation can be made about the conclusions advanced by Dr. Rossmo. In addition, Benner argues that Dr. Rossmo weighed Benner’s credibility when coming to the conclusions in his report, which would invade the province of the jury. In addition, Benner also argues that Dr. Rossmo’s report and testimony is focused on intent, the truth and falsity of allegations, and legal conclusions.

The court reports that Benner is correct that Dr. Rossmo’s report and testimony is focused on intent, the truth and falsity of allegations, and legal conclusions.  That said, the court opines that Dr. Rossmo also has relevant testimony to offer in this case.  The court opines that Dr. Rossmo’s testimony will be limited to describing professional standards and how Benner departed from those standards.

The court also opines that Dr. Rossmo will not be allowed to explain the legal standard for probably cause, as that would usurp the court’s role in explaining the law to the jury.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Kim Rossmo is granted in part and denied in part.