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United States v. Kahgegab

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division

April 3, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
TRAVIS LEE KAHGEGAB, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING GOVERNMENT'S MOTION TO EXCLUDE OPINION TESTIMONY, DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO EXCLUDE OPINION TESTIMONY, GRANTING MOTION IN LIMINE, AND OVERRULING DEFENDANT'S OBJECTION TO VIDEO EVIDENCE

          THOMAS L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge

         Defendant Travis Lee Kahgegab is charged with one count of domestic assault by a habitual offender, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 117. On February 24, 2017, a pretrial conference was held. At the conference, Kahgebab's counsel requested that a second pretrial conference be held on February 27, 2017, thus providing time for her to discuss with Kahgebab whether he intended to proceed to trial. On February 27, 2017, the second pretrial conference was held on the record. Kahgebab indicated at the conference that he intended to proceed to trial. Kahgegab's counsel further explained that the defense anticipated retaining an opinion witness.

         On February 2, 2017, the Government filed a notice of intent to have an opinion witness testify. ECF No. 8. On March 16, 2017, the Government filed a motion to exclude Kahgegab's proposed opinion witness, Dr. Norman Stanley Miller. ECF No. 20. Kahgegab likewise seeks to preclude the Government's proposed opinion witness, Holly Rosen. ECF No. 22. Several days later, Kahgegab filed a motion to preclude the Government from introducing prior bad acts of Kahgegab under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b). Kahgegab has also objected to the Government's notice of intent to offer video recordings of the alleged victim's interviews with police, arguing that they are inadmissible hearsay. For the reasons stated below, the Government's motion to exclude opinion witness testimony will be granted, Kahgegab's motion to exclude opinion witness testimony will be denied, Kahgegab's motion to exclude evidence of prior past acts will be granted, and Kahgegab's objection that the video recordings are hearsay will be overruled.

         I.

         The Government seeks to preclude Dr. Norman Stanley Miller from testifying as an opinion witness for Kahgegab. According to Kahgegab's notice of opinion witness, ECF No. 18, Dr. Miller is “an expert witness in the area of alcoholism and substance abuse and memory and recollection of persons as well as their behavior while under influence of either.” Id. at 1. Kahgegab asserts that Dr. Miller “will testify . . . about effects alcohol and other substances have on memory, including but not limited to impaired memory, effects on hippocampus, loss of memory (minimal recollection, recantation, no memory of certain events) and the reasons for these behaviors.” Id. Kahgegab has not provided any information about Dr. Miller, his training and experience, or how his testimony may be of service to the jury. Kahgegab has not provided any other details about the testimony Dr. Miller intends to offer nor has he provided a summary of any findings or conclusions Dr. Miller may have recorded. Likewise, Kahgegab has not provided the scientific basis for his testimony.

         The admissibility of expert witness testimony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702. That rule states that:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Id.

         “Rule 702's ‘helpfulness' standard requires a valid scientific connection to the pertinent inquiry as a precondition to admissibility.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 592-93 (1993). Of course, “‘[e]xpert testimony which does not relate to any issue in the case is not relevant and, ergo, non-helpful.'” Id. at 591 (quoting 3 Weinstein & Berger ¶ 702[02] p. 702- 18). “A witness, lay or expert, may not form conclusions for a jury that they are competent to reach on their own.” United States v. Freeman, 730 F.3d 590, 597 (6th Cir. 2013). The proponent of the testimony has the burden of establishing its admissibility by a preponderance of proof. Nelson v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., 243 F.3d 244, 251 (6th Cir. 2001).

         Here, Kahgegab has not carried his burden of demonstrating that Dr. Miller's testimony will be helpful to the jury. The alleged victim gave two interviews to police, but now claims to have no memory of the incident. Kahgegab has asserted that the alleged victim was intoxicated during at least one of the interviews she gave to police. In unrelated briefing, Kahgegab indicates ...


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