Police Procedures Expert Witness Testimony Not Allowed

Plaintiff filed suit against the defendant related to an incident between an individual and the police.  Plaintiff hired a Police Procedures Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court granted the motion to exclude.

Facts:  This case (Rodriguez v. Coggins – United States District Court – District of New Mexico – July 29th, 2019) involves an incident between an individual and the police, which resulted in the death of the individual.  The plaintiff is the personal representative of the decedent’s estate and brings this case against the defendants alleging that they violated the decedent’s  Fourth Amendment right to be free from the use of excessive force.  The plaintiff alleges that the decedent was running away from the defendant, did not brandish a firearm, and did not pose a danger to the defendant at the time of the shooting.  The plaintiff hired Professor William Harmening (Police Procedures Expert Witness) to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Mr. Harmening.

Discussion:  The court opines that Harmening has never been a crime scene specialist or criminalist.  In addition, the court notes that Harmening has never taught courses which involve the techniques of crime scene processing.  In addition, the court opines that Harmening has never investigated an officer involved shooting, and has never conducted forensic analysis on a bullet and has never conducted any experiments in wound ballistics or characteristics.

The court also states that although Harmening has been published in peer review formats, none of those publications entail processing or analyzing physical evidence.  Last, the court states that Harmening has been accepted as an expert in the area of securities fraud and securities fraud investigation, but not in any other area.

The defendants argue that Harmening should be excluded from testifying in this case because 1) he is not qualified to render an opinion on blood evidence, interpretation, wound characteristics, bullet trajectories, and shooting reconstruction; 2) his methodology is not reliable; 3) his interpretations are not helpful for the fact-finder; and 4) his statements about the defendant or other witnesses’ states of mind are speculative.

The court opines that Harmening does not have the training or experience in the areas mentioned and interpretation of physical evidence does not fall within the confines of Harmening’s expertise, which is psychology and securities fraud.

The court also opines that because Harmening is not qualified to offer an opinion in this case, the court need not address the other arguments about his methodology or reliability.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Professor William Harmening is granted.