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Harold Hill v. City of Chicago

June 27, 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 move 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 Dr. Karl Reich's expert testimony. For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Harold Hill maintains 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. In the present motion, Defendants contend that Dr. Reich's expert opinion testimony as to post-conviction DNA testing is irrelevant and unreliable. As the Court explained in its earlier rulings, under the facts and circumstances of this case, DNA evidence is relevant to Hill's Fifth Amendment claim because it has the tendency to make the fact that Defendants coerced his confession more probable than not. See United States v. Canady, 578 F.3d 665, 670-71 (7th Cir. 2009) ("Rule 401 defines relevant evidence as 'evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence ... more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence'"). In general, as long as Defendants argue that Hill remains guilty of the Morgan murder, DNA evidence regarding Hill's innocence is highly relevant and probative to his coerced confession claim.

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) (quotation omitted).

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. Reich's opinion testimony is not relevant because it would not assist the jury in determining any facts at issue in this lawsuit. 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). Put differently,"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).

In response to DNA evidence found under Morgan's fingernails that excluded Hill as a contributor, Defendants have developed the defense that Hill's DNA may have been found on other evidence, but because there was insufficient data, the DNA testing that was performed was inconclusive. In rebuttal, Dr. Reich opines that additional testing could have been performed. In this context, Defendants argue that Dr. Reich's testimony is not relevant because there is no way of knowing the results of any additional testing. Contrary to Defendants' argument, Dr. Reich's opinion that had there been further analysis of the DNA evidence, there would have been a more complete profile of male contributors is relevant. To clarify, this explanation is helpful to the jury because it provides an alternative explanation for why a DNA match was not obtained and in rebuttal to Dr. Staub's opinion that "it cannot be scientifically concluded that Hill, Young, and Williams were not involved in the crime." (R. 429, Ex. B, Staub Report, at 8.) Accordingly, Dr. Reich's opinion that additional testing would have provided a more complete profile is relevant and helpful to the jury. See Gallardo, 497 F.3d at 733.

Defendants also argue that Dr. Reich's testimony rebutting Donald Parker's analysis for the Illinois State Police regarding the number of individuals included in the DNA mixture under Morgan's fingernails is irrelevant. Specifically, Parker concluded that the DNA came from Morgan and at least two other people, whereas Dr. Reich concluded that the DNA contains mixtures of Morgan and one male. Hill maintains that Dr. Reich's testimony is relevant because it conflicts with Defendants' theory of the case that three people committed the Morgan murder. Defendants, on the other hand, maintain that they do not intend to offer evidence attempting to prove the number of Morgan's attackers. Accordingly, testimony about the number of contributors to the DNA mixture is not relevant and would lead to juror confusion. See Fed.R.Evid. 401, 403; see United States v. Alayeto, 628 F.3d 917, 922 (7th Cir. 2010) (evidence is confusing if it distracts jurors from central issue of case). Therefore, the Court bars Dr. Reich's opinion testimony regarding the number of contributors to the DNA mixture found under Morgan's fingernails.

Next, Defendants assert that Hill has wrongfully interjected his innocence into this lawsuit and that he is attempting to submit Dr. Reich's DNA evidence to demonstrate his innocence. As discussed above, as long as Defendants argue that Hill is guilty of the Morgan murder, evidence relating to Hill's innocence and Defendants' theory of Hill's guilt is highly relevant and probative to Hill's coerced confession claim. Therefore, Defendants' argument that Hill is trying to interject irrelevant evidence about his innocence is disingenuous at best. Further, testimony concerning the DNA evidence is also relevant to the extent that it demonstrates that Hill's confession was false and rebuts Defendants' arguments that Hill independently knew the details of Morgan's murder. Defendants also argue that Dr. Reich's opinion testimony is not relevant and does not assist the jury in understanding any facts at issue because Dr. Reich did not conduct the DNA testing, but instead reviewed the DNA results done by other laboratories. Defendants fail to mention, however, that their competing expert, Dr. Rick W. Staub, did not conduct his own testing, but similarly based his analysis on laboratory results. (See R. 429, Ex. B, Staub Report.) Moreover, the Seventh Circuit has rejected a similar argument and concluded that experts can rely on scientific data generated ...


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