Expert opinions about the death shriek are admissible at trial

June 9, 2013

Saturday, June 9, 2013

Good afternoon:

The defense presented the testimony of two expert witnesses yesterday, Dr. Peter French from the UK and George Doddington from the United States, who agreed with Dr. Nakasone of the FBI Crime Lab that there is insufficient information in the background of the recorded 911 calls with which to form an opinion regarding whether Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman uttered the terrified death shriek.

The three experts also agreed that there is insufficient information to support an opinion regarding whether there are any identifiable words or phrases in the background of those calls.

Note that the three experts have described the prosecution and defense effort to rely on expert witnesses to identify the source of the terrified death shriek, as well as any words or phrases that either of them might have used, as an absence-of-evidence problem. That is, they agreed that the methodologies used by the prosecution experts are generally accepted by audiologists and neither novel nor new.

This conclusion is all that is required to satisfy the Frye rule, since the rule is a counting-heads test that establishes a threshold requirement or legal foundation to introduce an expert opinion that is based on a novel scientific theory or new methodology. The expert’s conclusion is irrelevant.

In other words, there was no need for a Frye hearing since the prosecution experts based their opinions on long accepted methodologies. Therefore, their opinions are admissible.

How much weight should be accorded to those opinions is a separate issue that only the jury can decide.

Defense counsel have focused their effort during the Frye hearing on attacking the validity of the opinions expressed by the prosecution experts. They are going to have to repeat that effort during the trial.

I predicted long ago that expert opinion regarding who uttered the terrified death shriek would not play a significant role in the outcome of the trial.

If I were arguing the State’s case to the jury, I would emphasize the strength of the circumstantial evidence that proves Trayvon Martin uttered the shriek. I would briefly add that the conclusions reached by the prosecution experts independently confirm the circumstantial evidence.

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Prosecution experts exclude the defendant as the source of the death shriek

June 7, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013

Good evening:

The Frye hearing is developing much as I expected it would, although I am surprised by how far afield the testimony has wandered.

The scope of the hearing should be confined to determining whether the methodologies used by the experts are generally accepted by forensic audiologists. Dr. Nakasone, Tom Owen and Dr. Reich agreed that they are and that resolves the Frye inquiry.

The defense presented evidence questioning the accuracy of the results due to the very short (3-second recording) length of time in which the death shriek is not competing with other sounds. However, that argument and the rest of the defense arguments affect the weight that should be given to the results rather than the admissibility of the evidence.

Therefore, we basically watched a full dress rehearsal of the defense case challenging the accuracy of the opinions expressed by Tom Owen and Dr. Reich.

They agreed that the defendant did not utter the death shriek and indeed the circumstantial evidence independently confirms their opinions.

I confess that I had a difficult time hearing what the experts were saying because the audio was fuzzy and cutting in and out.

West’s monotone and stubborn nitpicking instead of focusing on the general acceptance issue, which is the purpose of the Frye hearing was quite annoying.

I think the defense committed a potentially serious tactical error by asking for a Frye hearing this close to trial because they have little or no chance to win and the hearing creates an opportunity for the State to remind everyone that their experts have excluded the defendant as the source of the death shriek.


If I were the judge l would admit expert opinion evidence regarding who uttered the death shriek

June 6, 2013

It’s important to remember that every scientific principle, law, or methodology that is generally accepted in the scientific community today was once a novel theory or new methodology.

The process by which these novel theories and new methodologies become generally accepted in the scientific community can take many years.

It can be extremely frustrating to have to wait for general acceptance to develop in the scientific community when a pressing need exists to use a novel theory or methodology to solve crimes as was the case with applying DNA testing to solve otherwise unsolvable crimes or to hold a pharmaceutical company liable for birth defects that mighth ave been caused by anti-nausea medication prescribed by doctors for pregnant women.

The so-called DNA Wars of which I was a part in the late 80s and 90s resisting the admissibility of DNA test results that implicated my clients in death peenalty cases and the pressure on the courts to provide a legal remedy for parents of children born with birth defects possibly because the mothers ingested prescription Bendectin at the recommendation of their physicians to overcome morning sickness placed a mighty stress on our legal system.

The National Association of Prosecuting Attorneys pressured the courts to admit DNA testing and they were eventually successful in overcoming criminal defense lawyers like me who fought hammer and tong to prevent the evidence from bein admitted.

Plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers fought hard to persuade the courts to permit them to show a link between not only Bendectin and birth defects, but also between certain lung cancers and exposure to radioactiviy, coal dust, asbestos or smoking.

The SCOTUS decided the Daubert case in the midst of this war being fought in the courts to reject or at least loosen the strictures of the Frye Rule to allow litigants a shot at convincing juries to rule their way.

For those who cling to the Frye Rule believing the scientific tradition should be respected and followed before a litigant should be permitted to introduce into evidence the results of a scientific test based on a novel scientific principle or new methodology, I think they need to reexamine their view in a manner that recognizes that most trials consist of a lot of evidence from different sources that often independently confirm a result obtained using an experimental theory or methodology.

In addition, one party or the other has to satisfy a burden of proof and each side can call its own experts to challenge or support the results obtained with the new theory or methodology.

I have confidence in the ability of jurors to evaluate evidence obtained as the result of new scientific theories and methodologies in light of other evidence in the case and to fairly and impartially determine guilt or innocence according to which party has the burden of proof in any case, whether civil or criminal.

Of course this requires skilled lawyerswho understand science and can explain it to lay people. Unfortunately, we have a shortage of those lawyers, but the times are changing.

Daubert recognizes that, although a courtroom is not a laboratory, it is an excellent crucible for determining the truth and judges, lawyers and jurors are capable of making correct decisions and delivering justice in a way that no laboratory can accomplish.

The death shriek in the Zimmerman case is an excellent example of a situation where other evidence in the case confirms the hypothesis that Trayvon Martin uttered the death shriek.

Briefly, the evidence will show that Trayvon was an unarmed 5’11,” 158-pound 17-year-old male walking home in the rain minding his own business after purchasing Skittles and an iced tea at a 7/11. He spent most of his time during his walk home talking to his girlfriend on his cellphone informing her about a creepy man who followed him slowly at a distance in his vehicle in a menacing manner without identifying himself or attempting to engage him in a conversation. Trayvon attempted to elude the creepy man by running away from the street and ducking into a grassy area corresponding to the backyards of two rows of town houses,That area was not visible from the street and once there he told his girlfriend that he thought he had successfully eluded him.

The evidence will also show that the defendant was a 5’8,” 207 pound 28-year-old Neighborhood Watch Captain, professionally trained fighter and former bouncer, who was armed with a fully loaded 9 mm semiautomatic handgun that he carried in a holster concealed from view inside the right rear waistband of his pants.

The evidence will show that he got out of his vehicle after Trayvon ran away, ran after him in hot pursuit, and continued running after him despite being warned not to do so and agreeing not to do so by the NEN dispatcher. Then, instead of agreeing to meet the officer dispatched to the scene at a set location such a his parked vehicle, the RTL front gate, Clubhouse, or the rear entrance to RTL though which “these assholes always get away,” he instructed the dispatcher to tell the officer to ring him up on his cell phone when he arrived at the RTL so that he could tell him where he was.

Finally, the evidence will show that Trayvon’s girlfriend heard Trayvon say to someone, “Why are you following me for?” and then she heard an older male voice challenge Trayvon stating, “What are you doing here?”

Then she heard a sound like two bodies coming together and Trayvon yelling, “Get off me. Get off me.”

Then the phone went dead.

Less than one minute later, the defendant shot Trayvon in the heart, killing him.

I contend that nothwithstanding Dr. Nakasone’s legitimate concerns about the capability of audio technology today to positively identify the source of the death shriek from an isolated 3 second recording of a 911 call, a jury can reach the right conclusion by considering Dr. Nakasone’s opinion together with the opinions of other experts, and most importantly, the other evidence in the case, and the possibility that only Trayvon Martin or the man with the gun could have made those screams.

This, by the way will be the State’s argument, given the questions that Mr. Mantei asked Dr. Nakasone.

I hope this clarifies your understanding of the issues that relate to the admissibility of expert opinion evidence regarding the identity of the person who uttered the death shriek.

In my experience, judges have almost always allowed the expert witness to testify and express an opinion in a situation like this. They rule that objections by counsel go to the weight that the jury should give to any expert’s opinion rather than to the admissibility of the evidence itself.

I believe Judge Nelson will reach the same conclusion.

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Watch and Comment: Zimmerman Frye Hearing Livestream

June 6, 2013

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Good morning:

Judge Nelson set aside today and tomorrow for a Frye hearing regarding the admissibility of expert testimony about the death shriek and a hearing on the defense motion for sanctions and a judicial inquiry into alleged discovery violations by the State.

Not sure which order she plans to hear these motions, but I am sure we will find that out when the hearing starts in about 25 minutes @ 9 am EDT.

Here is a link to the livestream:

http://wildabouttrial.com/george-zimmerman-live-stream.html

Comment below.

Due to inclement weather, Crane and I have decided not to take our computers with us on our trip to TN for a doctor’s appointment. We will be with you for the first 1.5 hours and catch up with you later after we return.

Peace


What to expect tomorrow at the hearings in the Zimmerman case

June 5, 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Good morning:

Except for RZ, Jr.’s unsupported claim that Dr. Alan Reich’s opinions are based on voodoo science, nothing new has been reported in the press today about the case.

Speaking of new, the purpose of a Frye hearing is to determine whether a new or novel scientific theory or methodology is generally accepted in the scientific community. If the answer to the question is “No,” evidence obtained using that theory or methodology will be excluded and the jury will never hear about it.

If the theory or methodology used is not novel or new, the evidence will be admitted and objections to the accuracy of the results will go to weight and not admissibility. In other words, the jury will determine how much weight to assign to the evidence.

I think the defendant’s objections go to weight rather than admissibility, since the technology used is not novel or new.

Therefore, I am predicting that Judge Nelson will deny the defense motion to exclude testimony by the defense audiologists, including Dr. Reich.

The other motion scheduled for tomorrow is the defense motion for sanctions and a judicial review of alleged prosecution discovery violations. This will involve a continuation of the hearing that began last Tuesday with Wesley West on the stand. West, the former Nassau County prosecutor who resigned due to differences of opinion with State Attorney Angela Corey last December, represents whistleblower Ben Kruidbos, the Fourth Circuit Director of Information Technology who is going to testify that Bernie de la Rionda had photographs and video from Trayvon Martin’s cell phone that he did not disclose to the defense.

As I have said before, “Who cares?”

BDLR turned over the BIN file to the defense back in January, but the defense did not hire anyone to extract it or purchase the software to do it themselves.

In addition, the information on the phone is not relevant, admissible or exculpatory and, in light of Mark O’Mara’s lie about a video supposedly depicting Travon laughing as his buddies beat up a homeless person, O’Mara should have the decency to withdraw the motion and apologize for filing it.

He will not do that, of course.

I would deny his frivolous motion and fine him, if not jail him for contempt, but Judge Nelson is nicer than I am, so she will just deny it or hold off on issuing a ruling until after the trial, which is what she did with the last defense motion for sanctions.

The testimony from the audiologists should be interesting and worth listening to. After they are finished testifying, I think O’Mara will deeply regret having asked for a Frye hearing.

This is a golden opportunity for BDLR to inform the jury panel, the nation and the world on the eve of trial that Trayvon uttered the death shriek.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 am EDT.

We will live blog on the road via livestream from a motorcycle somewhere deep in Tennessee.

Ciao, baby.

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We’ll need the gas money to get home.

Many blessings to all of you from

Fred and Crane


Defense mendacity in Zimmerman case is disgusting

May 24, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Good morning:

George Zimmerman’s attorneys, Mark O’Mara and Don West, have unintentionally confirmed this week that they have no defense to present on his behalf by knowingly and intentionally publishing false, irrelevant and inadmissible information about Trayvon Martin to incite white racists to denounce him as a pot smoking black thug who deserved to die.

I used the word “confirmed” because three weeks ago the defendant appeared in open court and waived his right to an immunity hearing. The mixture of false and misleading information released yesterday is not a defense to second degree murder. It’s deliberate character assassination by false statement and innuendo of an unarmed teenager who was stalked, restrained and shot through the heart while screaming for help.

Here’s LLMPapa:

Last I heard, skipping school, pot smoking and participating in refereed fights between equal combatants is not a death penalty offense.

In other news, the defense attorneys filed a flurry of forgettable motions and responses to prosecution motions which, like snowflakes in April, are destined to melt when they hit the ground.

I begin with Donald West’s frivolous, dishonest and intentionally misleading reefer-madness motion that he filed earlier this week arguing that a trace amount of marijuana in Trayvon Martin’s autopsy blood should be admissible to prove that he was the aggressor even though he was unarmed and the defendant stalked, restrained and shot him in the heart.

The defense motion to continue:

1. cites no authority,

2. claims he needs to investigate Dr. Reich (the State’s audio expert who identified Trayvon as the person screaming for help), which takes about an hour if you google him,

3. claims other unnamed experts told him Dr. Reich’s opinion is based on science that has fallen into “disrepute,”

4. fails to support this assertion with an affidavit from one or more of these experts, and

5. claims he needs time to find an expert to hire even though he is supposedly in touch with all of these experts.

This motion is ridiculous and will be denied because it fails to document a reason for a continuance.

O’Mara’s motion for sanctions against Bernie de la Rionda for not disclosing the evidence that the defense obtained from Trayvon’s phone and published in its 3rd evidence dump, is frivolous because the so-called exculpatory evidence that he claims BDLR withheld in violation of the Brady rule is not exculpatory.

Therefore, the Brady rule does not apply and this motion should be denied.

West’s reply to the State’s motion to exclude opinion evidence about the defendant’s guilt or innocence generally admits that witness opinions about the guilt or innocence of a defendant are inadmissible but warns that if the State attempts to attribute the delay in arresting and charging the defendant (which isn’t relevant either), then the State will have opened the door to allowing the defense to call SPD cops to justify what they did.

I don’t believe this issue will come up as it is irrelevant to whether the defendant murdered Trayvon.

Sideline mini-trials about marginally relevant or irrelevant issues are exactly what evidence rule 403 is designed to prevent.

West’s 2-page reply to the State’s motion to exclude the defendant’s self-serving hearsay statements, which does not cite a case, generally agrees that many of the defendant’s statements are hearsay, if offered by the defense, but disagrees with the State’s argument that none of the defendant’s statements are admissible under the res gestae exception or some other exception to the hearsay rule. West asks Judge Nelson to reserve ruling until the issue comes up in trial.

This is a sneaky response because West wants to be able to ask a leading question seeking agreement from a witness that the defendant said XYZ. For example, he might ask SPD Investigator Serino this question:

George told you that he killed Trayvon in self-defense, didn’t he?

Bernie de la Rionda (BDLR) would object to the question because it contains an inadmissible self-serving hearsay statement.

Judge Nelson would sustain the objection, but she cannot unring the bell, so to speak. The jury would have heard the defendant’s inadmissible statement.

He also would probably like to mention that self-serving hearsay statement during the defense opening statement to the jury or maybe during jury selection.

The purpose of the State’s motion in limine regarding the defendant’s self-serving hearsay statements is to prevent those events from happening, and I am reasonably certain Judge Nelson has seen this trick before and is savvy enough to see through West’s tactical deception.

Therefore, I expect she will grant the State’s motion.

BTW, the res gestae exception that West mentions is a limited exception to the hearsay rule similar to the present-sense-impression exception in which the hearsay statement about an event occurs as the event happens. Thus, the statement is part of the event itself or the res gestae and cannot be excised from it.

The State’s motion in limine seeking an order prohibiting the defense from mentioning the voice stress analysis test that the defendant took should be granted because that’s the legal rule in Florida and elsewhere. The rule is based on the lack of general agreement among scientists that this type of test can consistently produce accurate and reliable results.

In other words, the test violates the Frye Rule.

Judge Nelson should grant this motion.

The State’s 3rd motion for a gag order asks Judge Nelson to put an end to the defense effort to poison the jury pool by assassinating Trayvon Martin’s good character with false evidence and innuendo publicized after the jury pool of 500 people have received their notices to report for jury service on June 10, 2013.

It is no accident that the defense waited until after the 500 potential jurors were served with their notices, but before they report for jury service. Therefore, this was a deliberate tactic to create an unringing the bell problem regarding false, irrelevant, and inadmissible evidence.

A gag order will not unring the bell.

This is quite possibly the sleaziest tactic that I have ever seen. To intentionally poison a jury pool a couple of weeks before trial with false and misleading information about the victim of a homicide calculated to incite and unite White racists to approve of the execution of an unarmed Black teenager is astonishing.

These two lawyers are fortunate that I am not Judge Nelson because I would jail them for contempt of court and file complaints against the bar association requesting their disbarment from the practice of law.

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Can Shellie Zimmerman testify against her husband in his murder trial

April 20, 2013

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Good morning:

Today’s topic will be the husband-wife marital privilege. What is it? What does it cover? How does it apply to Shellie and George Zimmerman?

The husband-wife marital privilege is an evidentiary rule that protects confidential communications between spouses from disclosure to third parties. The purpose of the rule is to encourage open communication between spouses without fear that one spouse may be forced under penalty of law to disclose what the other said.

The privilege does not apply to all communications; it only applies to communications that were intended to be kept confidential.

Not all confidential communications are protected. For example, in Florida there is no privilege:

(a) In a proceeding brought by or on behalf of one spouse against the other spouse.

(b) In a criminal proceeding in which one spouse is charged with a crime committed at any time against the person or property of the other spouse, or the person or property of a child of either.

(c) In a criminal proceeding in which the communication is offered in evidence by a defendant-spouse who is one of the spouses between whom the communication was made.

See: FL Stat. 90.504(3)

Open communications between spouses in the presence of other people are not confidential. For example, anything the defendant may have stated to his wife in the presence of another person, such as Mark or Sondra Osterman or Frank Taaffe, regarding his encounter with Trayvon Martin before or after the shooting would not be privileged.

Communications between spouses during recorded jailhouse telephone calls are not privileged when the parties are warned at the beginning of the call that it will be recorded.

I believe an interesting argument can be made, pursuant to FL Stat. 90.504(3)(c), that Shellie Zimmerman can testify about disclosures by her husband regarding the alleged murder since she is a “defendant-spouse.” Even though she is a defendant in a different case, the two are related matters.

Certainly the argument is more powerful regarding the admissibility of any statements that her husband may have made to her about her alleged perjury because it occurred at the defendant’s bond hearing in an effort to conceal substantial assets exceeding $100,000 from the court, including a second passport that the defendant may have been planning to use to flee the jurisdiction to avoid prosecution.

Flight to avoid prosecution is admissible to show consciousness of guilt and, as Judge Lester noted in his order setting bail, the evidence supported an inference that only the fortuitous attachment of an ankle bracelet with a GPS device prior to the defendant’s release from jail may have prevented him from fleeing the United States with a valid passport and more than $100,000 of other people’s money.

Should the fortuitous circumstance that related criminal cases are pending against a husband and a wife under different cause numbers, instead of a single cause number, exclude application of section (3)(c)?

What do you think?

(H/T to Searching Mind for spotlighting this issue in comments this morning)

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Witness 8’s (Dee Dee) alleged lies do not matter

March 7, 2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I write today to remind everyone that DD is not a critical prosecution witness because they can win this case without her testimony and her alleged lies about her age and whether she went to a hospital, instead of the funeral, probably are not admissible.

She is not a critical prosecution witness because the physical evidence, forensics, location of Trayvon’s body and the spent shell casing, and the defendant’s conflicting and inconsistent statements bury him beneath a mountain of evidence.

Although we will not know until trial, I am anticipating that the defendant’s interlocking phone calls with others before and after he killed Trayvon will eliminate any lingering doubt that anyone might have about his guilt. Even if it does not, I do not believe the prosecution’s case will be in any jeopardy.

BDLR will likely wait to call DD until late in his case after he has put in all of the evidence that he believes he needs to introduce in order to convict the defendant. With everything else in place, her testimony will merely confirm what everyone on the jury already knows. The jury likely will believe her because her testimony will be self-authenticating. That is, even though she had never been to the RTL, everything that she says Trayvon told her will be confirmed by the interlocking phone records of the calls she had with Trayvon, the physical layout of the place and the weather.

Because most of Trayvon’s statements to her are inadmissible hearsay, unless he was relating a present sense impression or excited utterance, which are two exceptions to the hearsay rule, I expect her testimony will be limited to he told her that,

(1) he was afraid of the creepy guy following him in the car;

(2) he ran to get away from him; the creepy guy suddenly showed up on foot; and

(3) he asked someone why he was following him;

Then she heard an older male voice respond, “What are you doing here?”

Then she heard what sounded like physical contact followed by Trayvon shouting, “Get off me,” and the phone went dead. She attempted to call him, but he did not answer.

That’s it. She does not know anything else.

The defendant’s supporters with considerable support from the lame-stream U.S. media and various lawyer-pundits who should know better have been saying things like, “The prosecution’s case is crumbling,” because Witness 8 (DD) lied or committed perjury,

(1) about her age; and

(2) when she claimed that she did not attend Trayvon’s wake or funeral because she was not feeling well and went to a hospital.

The prosecution’s case is not crumbling.

First, even assuming she lied, and I do not believe that she did, she most certainly did not commit perjury because neither of her statements are about matters that are material or important to the outcome of this case. Since materiality is an element that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to convict someone of perjury, there is no basis to charge her with that offense.

Second, the two alleged lies do not make it more or less likely that she is an untruthful person since a truthful person may lie about their age or when providing an excuse for not attending a funeral.

The rules of evidence permit Judge Nelson to exercise her discretion in deciding whether to permit the defense to cross examine DD about these two alleged lies.

The relevant rules of evidence are 608(b) and 403.

Evidence Rule 608(b) prohibits evidence of specific instances of the misconduct of a witness for the purpose of attacking her credibility, unless those specific instances of misconduct concern her character for truthfulness or untruthfulness.

(Emphasis supplied)

Evidence Rule 403 provides that even relevant evidence may be excluded if the judge finds that its probative value “is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury.”

(Emphasis supplied)

I can see Judge Nelson deciding that the slight probative value of the two alleged lies that she is an untruthful person is overwhelmed by their potential prejudice, since the alleged lies have nothing to do with any issues in the case, and her testimony is self-authenticating.

The admissibility of evidence about these two alleged lies probably will be the subject of a motion in limine by the prosecution for an order to prohibit the defense from mentioning them in front of the jury or cross examining her about them.

Even if Judge Nelson denies that motion, the prosecution can minimize the potential damage of that evidence by bringing it out on direct and asking her to tell the jury why she did not tell the truth about those two matters.

The defense would have to be careful cross examining her because the jury might not like it, if they do not treat her in a respectful manner.

When all is said and done by the witnesses and the lawyers, and the jury retires to deliberate on a verdict, I doubt that DD’s credibility will be a matter of any concern or discussion regarding whether the defendant killed Trayvon in self-defense.

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Cross Examining the Expert Witness: Messing with Hypotheticals

February 11, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

I write today about effectively cross examining expert witnesses, which was one of my specialties.

I could write a book about the subject, and maybe someday I will, but today I am going to focus on unraveling the expert’s hypothetical question.

Briefly, Rule 702 of the rules of evidence defines an expert witness as someone who is qualified by education, training or experience to express an opinion regarding a disputed matter in a legal proceeding.

When a jury needs the assistance of an expert witness to decide a disputed matter, either side may present the testimony of a duly qualified expert witness who may express an opinion regarding the disputed matter, including the answer to the ultimate question in the lawsuit.

The party that calls the expert begins by qualifying her as an expert. This normally involves having her tell the jury about her education, training or experience and publications in professional peer reviewed journals. Most experts have a curriculum vitae or CV, that lists their educational credentials and an up-to-date list of their publications. The CV is admitted into evidence.

The expert then tells the jury what evidence she has examined in the case.

Next comes a hypothetical question in which the expert is asked to assume a set of specific facts and asked if she can form an opinion to a reasonable medical or scientific certainty about the significance of those facts.

The witness will answer, “Yes.”

Next question: “What is your opinion?”

Next comes the rat-a-tat-tat of a nail gun.

One of the most effective ways to cross examine an expert is to attack the validity of the assumptions in the hypothetical question.

Undermine one and the expert’s opinion usually falls apart.

Since assumptions typically consist of assuming that disputed facts are undisputed, in a manner that benefits the party that called the expert, the opposing party cross examining the expert simply asks the expert to assume the contrary view.

Another way to challenge an expert opinion is to introduce an additional assumption into the hypothetical that undermines the conclusion.

Let us take, for example, the issue regarding whether Trayvon or the defendant was on top when the defendant fired the fatal shot.

The undisputed facts are the trajectory of the shot, which was direct from front to back, the intermediate range from which the shot was fired, the nonalignment of the two aligned holes in the sweatshirts with the entry wound and the muzzle of the gun was in contact with the outer sweatshirt when the fatal shot was fired.

The disputed fact is whether Trayvon or the defendant was in the superior position straddling the other.

The defense probably could find an expert who, given those undisputed facts, could testify to a reasonable scientific certainty that the defendant was on the bottom when he fired the fatal shot.

The problem with the hypothetical, however, is that it does not account for the presence of the gun in the defendant’s hand.

According to the defendant’s statement, he pulled the gun out of the holster that he carried inside the waistband of his jeans behind his right hip.

The expert’s opinion falls apart when you add this undisputed fact to the hypothetical because the defendant could not draw the gun and get it into the necessary position to fire the fatal shot.

Note BTW, that one also could conclude to a reasonable scientific certainty from the original set of undisputed facts that the defendant was in the superior position straddling Trayvon.

This is how you shoot down credentialed experts in just a few words.


Featuring: Lonnie Starr Explains Why Dee Dee is Credible and I Explain Witness Tampering

February 7, 2013

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lonnie Starr is starring in today’s Featuring feature. Day in and day out, he skins the onion with solid comments that systematically peel back layer after layer of the defendant’s lies destroying his claim of self-defense.

I follow with an explanation of the excited utterance and present sense exceptions to the hearsay rule and a short explanation why the use of doxing and character assassination of Dee Dee constitutes first degree witness tampering, punishable by up to life in prison.

At 8:12 am he wrote the following comment explaining why Dee Dee’s statements are self-authenticating and the defense efforts to access her social media accounts are irrelevant:

The social media accounts of DD are not probative, because she was not physically present in RATL when these events took place, she is only an “ear witness” to what would be hearsay if not for the exceptions to those rules.

As such, I would not allow them to go after her social media material, because it’s only utility is as impeachment material. No amount of impeachment material, that is external to her statements about what she witnessed by ear, can have any fair application. If this witness is to be impeached in any way, shape or form, that impeachment must come from a demonstration that what she is testifying to is either not what occurred or could not have occurred.

This is because, obviously, without having been present and without any knowledge of the paths, roads, houses, their locations and the distances between them, she could not possibly fashion false testimony that could fit the conditions that night, with any precision at all.

MOM needs to climb back into his cave, he’s trying to cover up his own gross stupidity with even more wasteful gross stupidity.

Even if he were to get his hands on her social media materials, and managed to find some kind of impeachment material in them, it would not be allowed in court, because it would not be either relevant or probative. In short, you cannot impeach an account that cannot be falsely fashioned.

Although I think the information in Dee Dee’s social media accounts is discoverable, assuming she has any accounts, I agree with Lonnie’s conclusion that the information is irrelevant and inadmissible.

The defendant, his defense team and his rabidly confused supporters do not seem to understand that information in Dee Dee’s social media accounts, assuming she has any accounts, is unlikely to be admissible at trial.

The rules of evidence do not permit lawyers to attack the credibility of witnesses by throwing mud in their faces to see how much of it sticks. Assuming for the sake of argument that she is everything they claim she is and worse, none of that bad act and bad character evidence will be admissible. It does not matter, for example, if she lied about going to the hospital instead of Trayvon’s funeral. She could have partied naked in a crack house all night long having sex with animals and the defense would not be permitted to mention it.

Whether she was his girlfriend, boyfriend, friend, 5 years old, 100 years old or somewhere in between, is irrelevant.

She could have been a telemarketer trying to sell him a bushel of used rubbers packaged by the Koch brothers and Trayvon nothing more to her than a voice on the phone and she still would be able to testify about the conversation.

How can this be?

Simple.

The relevancy rule and excited-utterance and present-sense-impression exceptions to the hearsay rule permit her to tell the jury what Trayvon told her about his encounter with the creepy man and what he did to get away from him as well as what Trayvon and the creepy man said to each other and what she heard when the phone went dead.

The reason his statements are admissible is that he was describing an exciting event as it was happening and influencing him. Contemporaneous descriptions of exciting events by witnesses involved in and experiencing those events have long been admissible to prove those events happened as described. Indeed, this is well-settled law. If the defense objects, it will get nothing but a stern and withering glance from Judge Nelson as she says, “Objection overruled.”

The jury will assess Trayvon’s credibility regarding his encounter with the creepy man just as it will assess the credibility of the creepy man’s numerous conflicting and inconsistent statements about that encounter. The jury will look at the rest of the evidence, particularly the physical and forensic evidence as well as the testimonies of the various witnesses to the encounter and the shooting.

It doesn’t take a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.

As Lonnie points out, Dee Dee was not present during the encounter and did not know anything about the neighborhood. She can only tell the jury what Trayvon told her. She would not have known what to lie about because she was not there. If anything, her statement is frustratingly vague and that ironically enhances her credibility in a manner that a more detailed statement tailored to establish each element of the crime charged would not.

The defense is not likely to persuade the jury that Benjamin Crump told her what to say. Matt Gutman’s (ABC News) recording will no doubt verify that. He would not have been invited to be present and record the conversation, if Crump had any funny business in mind. That recording created a great insurance policy.

As a former criminal defense lawyer and officer of the court, I am extremely offended by the efforts to dox, demonize and intimidate Dee Dee. Pure and simple it’s criminal behavior because it is motivated by a desire to keep her from testifying or to destroy her credibility if she does testify.

Witness intimidation via character assassination by false statement and innuendo is not protected speech under the First Amendment.

Since Dee Dee is a prosecution witness in a second degree murder case, those who seek to assassinate her character with false statements and innuendo are committing the crime of first degree witness intimidation.

Intimidating a witness to a murder in Florida is first degree witness tampering punishable by a sentence of imprisonment of up to life in prison.

I sincerely hope that anyone who attempts to intimidate Dee Dee is prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to a lengthy prison term.

They deserve it.


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