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Harris v. City of Chicago

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

July 27, 2017

CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., 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 certain testimony of Plaintiff Nicole Harris' proposed police practices expert, Gregg McCrary, 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 involving several Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) Officers. In her Complaint, 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 approximately 27-30 hours of intermittent interrogation by Chicago Police Officers. After the jury convicted her of murder, the Circuit Court of Cook County judge sentenced Plaintiff to 30 years in prison.

         After exhausting her state court remedies, Plaintiff brought a habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. After the district court denied her petition for a writ of habeas corpus, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's denial with instructions to grant the writ on October 18, 2012. See Harris v. Thompson, 698 F.3d 609, 613 (7th Cir. 2012). On February 25, 2013, the State released Harris from prison on bond. On June 17, 2013, the Cook County's State's Attorney dismissed all charges against Plaintiff, and on January 25, 2014, the Circuit Court of Cook County found that Plaintiff was innocent of the charges for which she was convicted and granted her a Certificate of Innocence pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/1-702. Plaintiff filed the present lawsuit on June 12, 2014.

         II. Agent McCrary's Qualifications

         According to Agent McCrary's vitae and expert report, he earned a Bachelor's of Fine Arts from Ithaca College, studied Criminal Justice at the graduate level, and further obtained a Masters of Arts in Psychological Services from Marymount University. He has been professionally involved in violent crime investigations and crime scene analysis for more than 40 years - including 25 years as an FBI Agent. While at the FBI, Agent McCrary investigated violent crimes as a field agent for approximately 17 years, after which he was promoted to Supervisory Special Agent and transferred to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. As a Supervisory Special Agent, McCrary worked for the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (“NCAVC”) in the operational wing of the Behavioral Science Unit. Agent McCrary's primary responsibility as a Supervisory Special Agent was to provide expertise in investigative techniques and crime scene analysis in violent crime investigations both to FBI field agents and any law enforcement agency that requested FBI assistance. His other responsibilities included conducting research into violent and sexually violent crimes and providing training to law enforcement agencies nationally and internationally.

         Agent McCrary has been a contributing author to The Crime Classification Manual (1992) and has co-authored articles in Criminal Investigative Failures (2009), and the Journal of Interpersonal Violence (1996). Also, Agent McCrary serves on the editorial review board for two professional journals, namely, The Journal of Aggression & Violence and The Journal of Family Violence. Furthermore, he has served as an adjunct professor of forensic psychology and criminal justice at Marymount University and DeSales University. As a consultant, Agent McCrary has provided operational support to major criminal investigations across the country for over 25 years. He has also been a panel member and presenter at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences regarding suicide and equivocal death investigations. Over the last 30 years, Agent McCrary has given presentations on the subjects of criminal investigative analysis, criminal sexuality, crime scene analysis, advanced homicide detective training, violent crime investigations, premise liability for violent crimes, criminal profiling, and cold case homicide investigations.

         In addition, Agent McCrary has investigated over a 1, 000 homicide cases nationally and internationally, including numerous equivocal death cases. Among the agencies with which Agent McCrary has trained and/or worked on violent crime investigations are the New York City Police Department, the New York State Police, the Texas Rangers, the Boston Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Massachusetts State Police, and the California Attorney General's Office. Agent McCrary has also worked or provided training for international agencies, including Scotland Yard, the Cuerpo Nacional De Policia in Spain, the Policia Judiciare in Portugal, the Hungarian National Police, Budapest Homicide, the French National Police, the Dutch National Police, the Metropolitan Toronto Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Oslo Police Homicide, among others.

         Agent McCrary has testified before select Senate Committees on Sexual Violence in New York State and Massachusetts. Courts have admitted Agent McCrary as a police practices expert in both federal and state cases. See, e.g., Jimenez v. City of Chicago, 732 F.3d 710 (7th Cir. 2013); Williams v. Brown, 208 F.Supp.3d 713 (E.D. Va. 2016); Tennessee v. Stevens, 78 S.W.3d 817 (Tenn. 2002). In assessing Agent McCrary's expertise, the Court of Appeals of Ohio explained:

McCrary worked as a special agent for the FBI for approximately 25 years. During that time, he took several graduate courses in criminal justice, and he received a master's degree in psychological services. He served his last ten years with the FBI in the behavioral-science unit, investigating cases and conducting research on violent criminal behavior to improve the operational effectiveness of the law-enforcement community. According to McCrary, the behavioral-science unit was developed in order to understand how people commit crimes, what motivates them to commit crimes, and how they get away with committing crimes.

State v. Essa, 194 Ohio App.3d 208, 233, 955 N.E.2d 429 (Ohio Ct. App. 2011).

         LEGAL ...

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