Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Harris v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 15, 2017

CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendants.


          AMY J. ST. EVE United States District Court Judge

         Defendants Robert Bartik, Demosthenes Balodimas, Robert Cordaro, James Kelly, Michael Landando, Anthony Noradin, and Randall Wo (collectively, “Defendants”) have moved to bar the testimony of Plaintiff Nicole Harris's proposed expert, Dr. Ryan Stevens, pursuant to the Federal Rules of Evidence and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). For the following reasons, the Court, in its discretion, grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion.


         I. Factual Background

         This is a wrongful conviction case against eight Chicago Police Officers. Plaintiff alleges that, on October 26, 2005, a jury in the Circuit Court of Cook County convicted her of murdering her four-year-old son, Jaquari Dancy, based in large part on a false and fabricated confession elicited during 27 hours of intermittent interrogation by Chicago Police Officers. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants fabricated a police report, subjected Plaintiff to sustained and aggressive questioning, held her overnight in a cell, and ultimately elicited the false and fabricated confession, which the Defendants captured on videotape, that Plaintiff killed her son. See Harris v. Thompson, 698 F.3d 609, 612 (7th Cir. 2012). In October 2012, the Seventh Circuit overturned Plaintiff's conviction. Id. at 650. On June 17, 2013, the Cook County State's Attorney dismissed all charges against Plaintiff. Plaintiff was granted a Certificate of Innocence, pursuant to 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/2-702.

         II. Dr. Ryan Stevens's Background

         Dr. Stevens is a physician specializing in Otolaryngology and Ear, Nose, and Throat surgery. (R. 220-1, Stevens Report and Resume, 1.) He holds a Doctorate of Medicine from Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Oregon. (Id., 1-2.) He completed his residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery in 2000 at the University of Colorado in Denver, Colorado, and became board certified in Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery in 2001. (Id., 2.) He previously served as Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery at Good Samaritan Regional Center in Corvallis, Oregon, from January 2007 to December 2008. (Id., 1.) He is currently an independent physician practicing in Corvallis, Oregon. (Id.)

         Dr. Stevens spent five years performing clinical studies and researching data on “the mechanisms of injury, the forces involved, the internal effects of the forces applied, and the situations in which accidental hanging and strangulation occur.” (Id., 2.) The studies included “the measurement of the force required for airway occlusion; the measurement of the force required for occlusion of the jugular vein; and the individual events of asphyxia in children to identify preventable events based on medical and situational data.” (Id.) Every four or five years, he reviews literature relating to hanging and strangulation in children. (Id.) He has given presentations relating to research on childhood hanging and strangulation to multiple medical societies, manufacturers of consumer products, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. (Id.) His published research includes: (1) Prevention of Accidental Childhood Strangulation: A Clinical Study. Annals of Otology Rhinology, & Laryngology. 200; 209:191-802 and (2) Prevention of Accidental Childhood Strangulation: Where is the Site of Obstruction? International Journal of Pediatric OtoRhinoLaryngology - Supplement Proceedings of the 7th International Congress of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. 1999 49: S321-322. (Id., 2-3.)

         III. Dr. Ryan Stevens's Opinions

         Plaintiff hired Dr. Stevens to “provide expert opinion testimony on the topic of pediatric asphyxia, including its frequency, mechanisms, and causes, as well as to opine in this case as to the cause and mechanism of the death of Jaquari Dancy.” (Id., 2.)

         Dr. Stevens's report begins with a review of the incidence of asphyxia. Asphyxia includes “inhalations, aspirations, airway blockages and mechanical suffocation due to hanging strangulation or lack of air due to a closed space or a plastic bag.” (Id., 3.) From 2000 to 2006, asphyxia was the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States for children between the ages of one and four. (Id.) CDC data show that, of total asphyxia deaths between 1999 and 2004 for children ages one to four, 159 were accidental deaths compared to 17 homicidal deaths. (Id.) Ropes or cords were involved in 24% of asphyxias. (Id.)

         Dr. Stevens also discusses the amount of force necessary to cause asphyxiation in children. (Id., 6.) Dr. Stevens performed a study of the forces involved in, and the internal mechanisms of, airway obstruction. (Id.) The study was performed on 88 children between 5 months and 5 ½ years of age. (Id.) For this study, a force transducer and force gauge was applied on the neck. (Id.) The range of force required for airway obstruction was 0.2 to 4.6 pounds, with a mean of 1.6 pounds and a standard deviation of 0.78 pounds. (Id.) Dr. Stevens also performed a study of external compression on the neck sufficient to obstruct the internal jugular vein in children aged 6 months to 5 ½ years. (Id.) The mean force required to obstruct the internal jugular vein was 0.37 pounds. (Id.) The studies demonstrated that the force required to cause fatal asphyxiation in children is low, and significantly less than is necessary for adults. (Id., 7.) The report also discusses situations involving accidental childhood strangulation and hanging, the most common methods of strangulation and hanging by age groups, events involving beds, and chances of survival. (Id., 7-15.) Further, the report provides that marks on the neck may or may not be found in both accidental and homicidal asphyxiations. (Id., 15.)

         In preparing his report, Dr. Stevens considered the medical examiner, Dr. Scott Denton's, report and photographs from the autopsy, as well as Dr. Denton's trial testimony from the criminal case and deposition. Dr. Stevens also considered a police report with handwritten notes of an interview with Jaquari's brother, Diante Dancy, an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services report documenting an interview with Diante, a copy of a handwritten statement by Sta-von Dancy, the children's father, a transcript of Sta-von's testimony from the criminal case, and photographs of the children's bunk beds. (Id., 15-16.) Dr. Stevens states that accidental asphyxia is a common cause of childhood mortality and accidental asphyxiation is more common than homicidal asphyxiation, by a ratio of ten to one, based on a CDC review for 1999-2003. (Id., 16.)

         Dr. Stevens gives the following opinions in this case:

(a) Accidental asphyxia is a common cause of childhood mortality.
(b) Accidental asphyxiation events are more common than homicidal asphyxiation events by a ratio of almost 10 to 1.
(c) Hanging and strangulation events can occur with low levels of force that cause airway and venous obstruction.
(d) Events of hanging can occur with partial suspension and are just as lethal as hanging events involving full suspension. Hanging events can occur from low points of suspension.
(e) Loop events are most common, but loops that are not drawn tight around the neck can cause death, and a free cord wrapped around the neck can cinch and hold enough force to result in death. Moreover, even an accidental wrapping of a free cord around a neck especially a cord with ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.