Law Enforcement Expert Witness: Report Too Many Strong Adjectives
The court, in Mutafis v. Markel, Dist. Court, ED Michigan 2013, dealt with a motion in limine to exclude the testimony of a law enforcement expert witness, Westrick, in a criminal case.
The court rejected the testimony in part, because of the “strong adjectives” used in the expert’s report.
Defendant Cook also does not dispute that an expert could provide his or her opinions on “discrete police-practice” issues, such as proper conduct or procedure. (Id. at 5, 8.) The problem, however, as Defendant Cook correctly points out, is that the opinions offered in Dr. Westrick’s report do not address such issues.
Instead, Dr. Westrick offers only a version of the facts using strong adjectives favoring Plaintiff and states an opinion regarding the officers’ conduct that is not helpful to the jury and is purely speculative. His opinions also contain impermissible legal conclusions. For example, Dr. Westrick opines:
- “The police then slammed their patrol unit into the rear of [Plaintiff’s] van.”
- “The criminal and departmental violations committed by the defendant officers Cook and Markel are evident.”
- “In my twenty four years of reviewing law enforcement (use-of-force) cases, this case is the most grievous example of law officer partner collaboration to violate a citizen’s rights.”
- “The first rule of a functioning law enforcement officer in the criminal justice system is honesty. Without honor amongst officers recognizing their role as the, “gateway into the criminal justice system” citizens rights are violated and they get hurt.”
- “This case was not a mistake. It was a disgusting moral failing of both police officers that reflects on a wayward police officer culture.”
- “In review of this case it appears the training of these officers is either amiss or not understood by the defendant officers.”
- “In this case honest and reasonable officer action was almost completely absent.”
- “Officer Markel used excessive force in the application of pepper spray to the citizen that had been beaten down by her and Officer Cook. Only with the arrival of a superior officer did the excessive force cease.”
(Id. Ex. 1.) It is important to stress that these are only examples of the opinions offered by Dr. Westrick that would be improper to admit at trial. There is little, if any, content in the approximate two page “Opinion” section of his report that is admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence.