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United States v. Ifediba

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

July 15, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
PATRICK EMEKA IFEDIBA and NGOZI JUSTINA OZULIGBO, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          R. DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on the United States' Motion to Preclude the expert testimony of Dr. Daniel A. Schwarz (Doc. #151). Dr. Schwarz was designated as an expert by Defendant Ifebida. There are unique issues in this case based upon the timing of the expert disclosure by Ifebida. Although the Government objects to Dr. Schwarz's testimony, it has not filed a formal motion to exclude Schwarz's proposed testimony because the report was only produced on the Friday before trial started. The court allowed the late disclosure because the Government would have time to review the report and the court would have an opportunity to conduct a Daubert hearing to more thoroughly evaluate Schwarz's proposed testimony. (See Doc. # 162 at 3-4). The Government's objections to Dr. Schwarz's testimony were lodged after those events. For the reasons explained below, the motion (Doc. #151) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides:

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.

         Under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) and its progeny, Rule 702 requires district courts to perform a critical “gatekeeping” function concerning the admissibility of scientific and technical expert testimony. United States v. Frazier, 387 F.3d 1244, 1260 (11th Cir. 2004) (en banc). To perform their role as gatekeeper, courts “engage in a rigorous three-part inquiry.” Id. District courts must consider whether: “(1) the expert is qualified to testify competently regarding the matters he intends to address; (2) the methodology by which the expert reaches his conclusions is sufficiently reliable as determined by the sort of inquiry mandated in Daubert; and (3) the testimony assists the trier of fact, through the application of scientific, technical, or specialized expertise, to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.” Id. (emphasis added) (quoting City of Tuscaloosa v. Harcros Chems., Inc., 158 F.3d 548, 562 (11th Cir. 1998)). Though there is some overlap among them, these three basic requirements -- qualification, reliability, and helpfulness -- are distinct concepts which the district court must be careful not to conflate. Id.

         The proponent of expert testimony always bears the burden to show that the requirements of qualification, reliability, and helpfulness are met. Id. That remains true whether the proponent is the Government or the accused in a criminal case. Id. And in addition to Rule 702, Rule 403 also applies to expert testimony. Id. at 1263. Thus, expert testimony that is otherwise admissible under Rule 702 and Daubert may still be excluded under Rule 403 if the probative value of the testimony “is substantially outweighed by its potential to confuse or mislead the jury.” Id.

         A. Expert Qualifications

         Experts may be qualified in various ways, including training, education, or experience in a given field. Id. at 1260-61. Often what is at issue under the qualification prong is not whether the proffered expert is qualified in the abstract, but whether his training, education, or experience qualify him to render an opinion on a specific topic. Particularly where an expert's qualifications rest on his experience (as opposed to scientific or technical training), the expert “must explain how that experience leads to the conclusion reached, why that experience is a sufficient basis for the opinion, and how that experience is reliably applied to the facts.” Id. at 1261. It is not enough for the court to simply take the expert's word for it. Id.

         B. Reliability of the ...


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