Terrorism Expert Witness Testimony Allowed In Part

Defendant is accused by the government of attempting to provide support and service to a terrorist organization.  Both defendant and plaintiff hired Terrorism Expert Witnesses and both parties filed motions to exclude.  The court allowed one of the experts testimony in part.

Facts:  This case (United States v. Adam Shafi – United States District Court – Northern District of California – June 28th, 2018) involves the defendant’s attempt to provide support to a foreign terrorist organization called the al-Nusrah Front.  The government argues that the defendant attempted to journey and give his service to the terrorist organization.  Both plaintiff and defendant have hired Terrorism Expert Witnesses.  Both parties have filed motions to exclude the testimony of the other expert.

Discussion:  The government’s expert witness, Lorenzo Vidino will allegedly testify on the background of ISIS and the al-Nusrah Front as well as violence committed by these institutions, how people join these terrorist organizations, and vocabulary used by those seeking to join.  The defendant’s expert will rebut the testimony of Vidino and testify on the background of the same organizations, how individuals travel to Syria, and how Muslim men can be influenced by terrorist organizations.

The defendant argues that Vidino’s testimony should be excluded because he does not have specialized knowledge about the al-Nusrah Front and that his testimony about ISIS and other terrorist organizations is not relevant.  The court disagrees with the first part of the argument, stating that Vidino has discussed the al-Nusrah Front in his publications and that his testimony would rest upon experience and knowledge that the jury does not have.  In addition, the court opined that Vidino’s testimony is relevant as well.  Nor, the court opined, will the testimony confuse the jury.

The defendant also argues that Vidimo’s testimony will unfairly prejudice the jury against him.  The court decides that Vidimo will be able to testify on violence and other terrorist acts committed by al-Nusrah to the extent that it is relevant and provides helpful background about the organization.  In addition, the court opines that Vidino will also be able to provide helpful testimony on al-Nusrah’s goals, ideologies and how they disseminate information.

Last, the defendant asserts that Vidino’s research is not reliable and that he is not qualified to serve as a terrorism expert in this case.  The court disagrees again, stating that Vidino’s expertise is based more on his knowledge and experience than his methodology.

Conclusion:  The expert witness testimony of Vidino is allowed in part