Police Procedures Expert Witness Testimony Not Allowed in Gun Shot Wound Litigation

Summary: Police Procedures Expert Witness testimony not allowed even though the defense argued that the expert has experience in crime scene reconstruction based on his history of being a law enforcement professional.

Facts:  This case (Minifield v. City of Winchester et al – United States District Court – Western District of Virginia – July 15th, 2022) involves a claim of excessive force.  The plaintiff alleges that the defendant caused the death of the plaintiff’s decedent when he was shot in a foot chase.  The cases revolves on the question of how the decedent received a gunshot wound that subsequently killed him.  The defendant, Stephen Sills, hired Police Procedures Expert Witness Gerald Summers to provide expert witness testimony on his behalf.  The plaintiff filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  Mr. Summers was hired to controvert the conclusions of the medical examiner and the defendant’s expert witness, who concluded that Mr. Minefield died as a result of a self inflicted gunshot wound.  Mr. Summers has opined that Mr. Minefield did not die of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  The plaintiff alleges that Mr. Summers does not have the qualifications to render an opinion in this case, as he is not a medical professional.

Mr. Summers claims that he has expertise in crime scene reconstruction because he graduated from State of Idaho Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) class #118 in June 1998 and that he worked in law enforcement from 1998 to 2012, including that of police chief.   The court opines that Summers’ testimony about his crime scene investigation experience shows that he does not have the relevant experience to opine on how Mr. Minifield was shot.  In addition, the court states that Summers does not have enough experience to opine how the bullett entered Mr. Minifield’s head or how far away the gun was when it was discharged.

In addition, the court says that Mr. Summers is not a medical doctor, and does not have any education, training, or experience to form a valid expert opinion on how the bullet caused damage to Mr. Minifield’s head.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Gerald Summers is granted.