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Harold Hill v. City of Chicago

July 5, 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 bar Richard J. Brzeczek from testifying as an expert witness on police practices. After the parties submitted their briefs on this Daubert motion, the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on May 23, 2011, at which Brzeczek testified. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion.

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 Pharmaceuticals, 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). Rule 702 provides, in relevant part, that "[i]f scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact[,] . . . a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion. . . ." Id. "It 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." Happel v. Walmart Stores, Inc., 602 F.3d 820, 824 (7th Cir. 2010).

Under the expert-testimony framework, courts perform the gatekeeping function of determining prior to admission whether the expert testimony is both relevant and reliable. See id.; United States v. Pansier, 576 F.3d 726, 737 (7th Cir. 2009) ("To determine reliability, the court should consider the proposed expert's full range of experience and training, as well as the methodology used to arrive [at] a particular conclusion."). In doing so, courts employ a three-step analysis: "[T]he witness must be qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education[;] the expert's reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony must be scientifically reliable; and the testimony must assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue." Ervin v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc., 492 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir. 2007) (internal quotations and citations omitted); see also Pansier, 576 F.3d at 737. As the Seventh Circuit instructs, "'[t]he focus of the district court's Daubert inquiry must be solely on principles and methodology, not on the conclusions they generate.'" Winters v. Fru-Con Inc., 498 F.3d 734, 742 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Chapman v. Maytag Corp., 297 F.3d 682, 687 (7th Cir. 2002)). "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, 143 L.Ed. 2d 238 (1999)).

In Daubert, the Supreme Court offered the following non-exclusive factors to aid courts in determining whether a particular expert opinion is grounded in a reliable scientific methodology: (1) whether the proffered theory can be and has been tested; (2) whether the theory has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) whether the theory has a known or potential rate of error; and (4) whether the relevant scientific community has accepted the theory. See Happel, 602 F.3d at 824; Winters, 498 F.3d at 742. Further, the 2000 Advisory Committee's Notes to Rule 702 list the following additional factors for gauging an expert's reliability: (1) whether the testimony relates to "matters growing naturally and directly out of research . . . conducted independent of the litigation"; (2) "[w]hether the expert has unjustifiably extrapolated from an accepted premise to an unfounded conclusion"; (3) "[w]hether the expert has adequately accounted for obvious alternative explanations"; (4) "[w]hether the expert is being as careful as he would be in his regular professional work outside paid litigation consulting"; and (5) "[w]hether the field of expertise claimed by the expert is known to reach reliable results for the type of opinion the expert would give." Id. (internal quotations omitted); see also American Honda Motor Co., Inc. v. Allen, 600 F.3d 813, 817 (7th Cir. 2010); Fuesting v. Zimmer, Inc., 421 F.3d 528, 534-35 (7th Cir. 2005), vacated in part on other grounds, 448 F.3d 936 (7th Cir. 2006); Deputy v. Lehman Bros., Inc., 345 F.3d 494, 505 (7th Cir. 2003) (noting that the Daubert analysis is flexible); Goodwin v. MTD Prods., Inc., 232 F.3d 600, 608 n.4 (7th Cir. 2000) (noting that "the Daubert Court 'emphasized that it did not presume to set out a definitive checklist or test, and that the district judge's inquiry should be flexible'") (quoting United States v. Vitek Supply Corp., 144 F.3d 476, 485 (7th Cir. 1998), with internal quotations from Vitek Supply omitted)).

An expert may be qualified to render opinions based on experience alone. See Compania Administradora de Recuperacion de Activos Administradora v. Titan Int'l, Inc., 533 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir. 2008) ("Testimony based solely on a person's special training or experience is properly classified as expert testimony"). "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. The Seventh Circuit has repeatedly stated that "genuine expertise may be based on experience or training." United States v. Conn, 297 F.3d 548, 556 (7th Cir. 2002), quoting Tyus v. Urban Search Mgmt., 102 F.3d 256, 263 (7th Cir. 1996). "[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 & Deferred Sav. Plan Trust Funds 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., quoting Smith v. Ford Motor Co., 215 F.3d 713, 718 (7th Cir. 2000).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Harold Hill brought this Section 1983 case against the City of Chicago, Chicago police officers, and a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney after his conviction for sexual assault and homicide was vacated based on post-conviction DNA evidence that excluded Hill from samples taken from the victim's fingernails. After the Court's ruling on summary judgment, the following claims remain in this lawsuit: (1) Hill's Fifth Amendment coerced confession claim; (2) Hill's Section 1983 conspiracy claim based on his coerced confession claim; and (3) Hill's failure to intervene claim based on his coerced confession.

Hill's case arises out of the October 14, 1990 brutal sexual assault and murder of Kathy Morgan. She was murdered and left in an abandoned building on West Garfield Boulevard in Chicago, Illinois. The building and Morgan's body were set on fire in an apparent attempt to hide the crime.

On March 20, 1992, two Chicago police officers arrested Hill for possession of a stolen automobile and possession of a handgun, and then transported him to the Seventh District Police Station in Chicago. At the police station, Hill admitted to committing two armed robberies -- one in Chicago and one in Oak Lawn, Illinois. During the follow-up investigation of the Chicago armed robbery, Hill participated in a line-up at the Area 3 Station at 39th Street and California Avenue on March 21, 1992. Defendant Chicago Police Detectives Kenneth Boudreau and John Halloran participated in conducting the line-up and questioned Hill about other crimes. Approximately twenty-six hours after his arrest, Hill gave a court-reported statement implicating himself and two other men, Dan Young and Peter Williams, in the Morgan crimes. Hill contends that Boudreau and Halloran, along with Assistant State's Attorney Rogers, coerced his confession. Over the next few days, the Detectives obtained written confessions from both Young and Williams. Despite Williams' confession, it was later confirmed that Williams was incarcerated at Cook County Jail on the day of Morgan's homicide.

Hill's criminal case commenced on March 22, 1992 with a probable cause to detain and bond hearing in the Circuit Court of Cook County. On April 13, 1992, Hill was indicted for the murder and sexual assault of Morgan. In September 1994, Hill and his co-defendant Dan Young were tried simultaneously -- but to separate juries -- for Morgan's sexual assault and homicide. The State introduced Hill's confession as evidence against him during his trial. In addition, both Hill and Young testified at trial maintaining their innocence and asserting that law enforcement coerced them into giving their confessions. In September 1994, the juries convicted Hill and Young for Morgan's sexual assault and homicide. Over a decade later, the results of DNA testing resulted in the trial court vacating Hill's conviction and the State dropping the charges against Hill.*fn1 Subsequently, Hill initiated this lawsuit.

In preparation for trial, Hill retained Richard Brzeczek as an expert witness to opine on certain police practices used by Chicago police detectives in connection with their murder investigation of Morgan. Defendants seek to exclude Brzeczek's testimony pursuant to Rule 702 and Daubert on the ground that his opinions are irrelevant to the ...


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