Police Procedures Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Hawaii Pepper Spray Case

Summary: Plaintiffs hired a Police Procedures Expert Witness to provide testimony related to an excessive force claim.

Facts:  This case (Silva v. City and County of Honolulu – United States District Court – District of Hawaii – May 21st, 2019) involves a claim of use of excessive force.  The plaintiffs claim that the defendants seized the decedent and used excess force when they arrested him for disorderly conduct.  The plaintiffs assert that the Honolulu police officers used pepper spray and a Taser multiple times against the decedent.  He died following his arrest.  The plaintiffs hired Police Procedures Expert Witness Mr. Richard Lichten to provide testimony.  The defendants have filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The defendants claim that Mr. Lichten is not qualified to provide an expert opinion in this case.  Mr. Lichten bases his expert opinions on his thirty years of experience  and the written policies of the Honolulu Police Department.  The court notes that Mr. Lichten has been certified as an expert by numerous courts in the field of police practices.  The court opines that Mr. Lichten has the requisite skill, education, training, and experience to testify as an expert about police procedures.

The court notes that qualified experts may testify about police practices and whether the particular actions of a police officer in a given situation comports with law enforcement’s standards.

The court opines that Mr. Lichen may not testify about facts that are not in evidence.  The defendants argue that Mr. Lichten’s report is based on facts that do not exists, specifically that the decedent was dragged by the defendant officers and that the taser’s probes penetrated the decedent’s skin.  The court opines that Mr. Lichten will not be allowed to testify about this information if there is no evidentiary basis presented at trial.

The court also opines that Mr. Lichten may not testify on the ultimate legal conclusion as to whether the defendant used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Mr. Richard Lichten is denied.