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Harold Hill v. City of Chicago

June 20, 2011

HAROLD HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendants have moved pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993), to preclude the expert testimony of Drs. Charles Michael Bowers and Constantine Karazulas. For the following reasons, the Court denies Defendants' motions.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Harold Hill alleges that Defendants Kenneth Boudreau and John Halloran coercively interrogated him resulting in his false confession in connection with the 1990 murder of Kathy Morgan in violation of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. At Hill's criminal trial, the State presented the testimony of forensic odontologist, Dr. John Kenny, who testified about the bite marks on the victim's breast and a "hickey" mark on the victim's neck. In particular, Dr. Kenny testified that the hickey mark was consistent with the general size and shape of Hill's mouth and that the bite mark was inflicted by co-defendant Dan Young's dentition. Hill's defense counsel did not present an opposing expert at the criminal trial.

After Hill was convicted, he filed a post-conviction petition pursuant to the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act, 725 ILCS 5/122-1, et seq. During Hill's post-conviction proceedings, Drs. Karazulas and Bowers re-analyzed the bite mark evidence that had been presented at trial. Although Hill asserts that if Defendants agree not to reference the bite mark evidence, he will not need to delve into this topic at trial, Defendants nevertheless maintain that they intend to introduce bite mark evidence and seek to exclude Dr. Karazulas' and Bowers' testimony under Daubert and Rule 702.

LEGAL STANDARD

"The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and the Supreme Court's opinion in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993)." Lewis v. Citgo Petroleum Corp., 561 F.3d 698, 705 (7th Cir. 2009). "The Federal Rules of Evidence define an 'expert' as a person who possesses 'specialized knowledge' due to his 'skill, experience, training, or education' that 'will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.'" Banister v. Burton, 636 F.3d 828, 831 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 702). Rule 702 also requires that: "(1) the testimony must be based upon sufficient facts or data; (2) it must be the product of reliable principles and methods; and (3) the witness must have applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case." Zamecnik v. Indian Prairie Sch. Dist. No. 204, 636 F.3d 874, 881 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 702).

Under the expert-testimony framework, federal courts perform the gatekeeping function of determining prior to admission whether the expert testimony is both relevant and reliable. See Banister, 636 F.3d at 831; United States v. Pansier, 576 F.3d 726, 737 (7th Cir. 2009). In particular, federal courts employ a three-part analysis in making this determination: (1) the expert must be qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education; (2) the expert's reasoning or methodology underlying his testimony must be scientifically reliable; and (3) the expert testimony must assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or to determine a factual issue. See Myers v. Illinois Central R. Co., 629 F.3d 639, 644 (7th Cir. 2010). "The goal of Daubert is to assure that experts employ the same 'intellectual rigor' in their courtroom testimony as would be employed by an expert in the relevant field." Jenkins v. Bartlett, 487 F.3d 482, 489 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 152, 119 S.Ct. 1167 (1999)).

An expert may be qualified to render opinions based on experience alone. See Metavante Corp. v. Emigrant Sav. Bank, 619 F.3d 748, 761 (7th Cir. 2010) ("An expert's testimony is not unreliable simply because it is founded on his experience rather than on data"). "In certain fields, experience is the predominant, if not the sole basis for a great deal of reliable expert testimony." Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 702. "[W]hile extensive academic and practical expertise in an area is certainly sufficient to qualify a potential witness as an expert, Rule 702 specifically contemplates the admission of testimony by experts whose knowledge is based on experience." Trustees of Chicago Painters & Decorators Pension, Health & Welfare v. Royal Int'l Drywall & Decorating, Inc., 493 F.3d 782, 787-88 (7th Cir. 2007) (citations and quotations omitted). As such, courts "consider a proposed expert's full range of practical experience as well as academic or technical training when determining whether that expert is qualified to render an opinion in a given area." Id. Finally, "[t]he proponent of the expert bears the burden of demonstrating that the expert's testimony would satisfy the Daubert standard." Lewis, 561 F.3d at 705.

ANALYSIS

I. Relevancy

Defendants first argue that Dr. Karazulas' and Bowers' opinions are not relevant, namely, that their opinions would not assist the jury in determining any facts at issue. As the Daubert Court teaches, Rule 702 "requires that the evidence or testimony 'assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.' This condition goes primarily to relevance." Id. at 591 (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 702). In other words, "Daubert instructs that expert testimony must be relevant and factually linked to the case in order to meet Rule 702's 'helpfulness' requirement." United States v. Gallardo, 497 F.3d 727, 733 (7th Cir. 2007). "Expert testimony which does not relate to an issue in the case is not relevant, and ergo, not helpful." See Daubert, 509 U.S. at 591 (citation omitted); see also Porter v. Whitehall Labs., Inc., 9 F.3d 607, 613 (7th Cir. 1993).

Before proceeding to Defendants' arguments, it is helpful to note the bite mark evidence Defendants intend to introduce at trial. Although Defendants do not articulate exactly what Dr. Kenny will testify about at trial, they have listed him as a may-call witness. In their motions to bar Drs. Bowers' and Karazulas' testimony, Defendants explain that at Hill's criminal trial, Dr. Kenny, a forensic odontologist and pediatric dentist, testified that he had analyzed the bite marks on Morgan's breast and concluded that it was inflicted by Young's dentition. Dr. Kenny further opined at Hill's criminal trial that the hickey mark on Morgan's neck was consistent with the general size and shape of Hill's mouth. Defendants also seek to introduce into evidence Dr. Kenny's report to Dr. Stein regarding the Morgan homicide, Dr. Kenny's preliminary report to Assistant State's Attorney Diane Dickett, Dr. Kinney's final report to Assistant State's Attorney Dickett, and other materials related to Dr. Kinney's bite mark opinion, including photographs and video. Defendants have yet to provide these documents to the Court, although Hill has provided the Court with the preliminary report to Assistant State's Attorney Dickett and a billing document.

In response to Defendants' Daubert motions, Hill has demonstrated that Drs. Bowers' and Karazulas' testimony is highly relevant to the issues in this lawsuit if Dr. Kenny testifies or if Defendants offer bite mark evidence as part of their defense. See Lewis, 561 F.3d at 705. More specifically, Drs. Karazulas' and Bowers' testimony will assist the trier of fact in determining whether Dr. Kenny's opinions concerning the bite mark evidence are flawed. Drs. Bowers and Karazulas, for example, will testify that Morgan's body was exposed to heat and her skin had shriveled before Dr. Kenny's examination. Because Morgan's body was charred, Dr. Karazulas will testify that no reliable comparison could be made to the bite marks found on Morgan's breast and neck. Dr. Bowers further explains that even despite the heat and any distortion cause by the burning, Young's dentition has a distinguishing characteristic that excluded his dentition for creating the bite mark. Likewise, Dr. Bowers would testify that it is impossible to link Hill to the hickey because the hickey mark ...


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