United States District Court, D. New Mexico
AIMEE BEVAN, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Desiree Gonzales, deceased, Plaintiff,
GABRIEL VALENCIA, Youth Development Administrator, Individually, MATTHEW EDMUNDS, Corrections Officer, Individually, JOHN ORTEGA, Corrections Officer, Individually, MOLLY ARCHULETA, Corrections Nurse, Individually, ST. VINCENT HOSPITAL, and NATHAN PAUL UNKEFER, M.D., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion to
Exclude Cheryl Wills (Motion to Exclude), filed on April 1,
2016. (Doc. 155). Plaintiff seeks to exclude Cheryl Wills
(Wills), a forensic adolescent psychiatrist, as an expert
witness and to strike her “Psychiatric Expert
Report” (Report) (Doc. 110-1). (Doc. 155) at 11.
Defendant Nathan Paul Unkefer, M.D. (Unkefer) filed a
response on April 15, 2016; Defendants Gabriel Valencia,
Matthew Edmunds, John Ortega and Molly Archuleta (County
Defendants) filed a response on April 29, 2016; and on May 5,
2016, Defendant St. Vincent Hospital (St. Vincent Hospital)
joined in the responses filed by County Defendants and
Unkefer. (Docs. 162, 170, and 175). County Defendants then
filed a notice of errata on May 5, 2016, that included
Wills' Substitute Affidavit. (Doc. 173). Plaintiff filed
a reply on May 17, 2016. (Doc. 180).
April 11, 2018, the Court held a telephonic preliminary
hearing to determine whether to hold a Daubert
hearing on the Motion to Exclude. (Docs. 238 and 239). As a
result of that telephonic preliminary hearing, the Court
ordered that (1) Plaintiff supplement the record to clarify
the damages she is seeking, and (2) County Defendants
supplement the record to include where and when Wills had
previously testified as an expert. (Doc. 240).
April 17, 2018, Plaintiff filed a “Notice of Damages
Sought for the Estate of Desiree Gonzales” in which
Plaintiff specified the following damages:
1. The pain and suffering experienced by Desiree Gonzales
between the time of injury and death;
2. The value of Desiree Gonzales's life apart from her
earning capacity, also known as hedonic
3. The mitigating or aggravating circumstances attending the
wrongful act, neglect or default pursuant to the New Mexico
Wrongful Death Act;
4. Punitive damages, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983;
5. Attorney fees;
6. Costs; and
7. Pre- and post-judgment interest.
(Doc. 248) at 1. On that same day, County Defendants filed an
“Affidavit of Cheryl D. Wills, M.D.” in which
Wills attests to providing expert deposition and/or trial
testimony in the area of forensic adolescent psychiatry in
eight civil cases, beginning in July 2010. (Doc. 247) at 6.
considered the Motion to Exclude, the accompanying briefing,
the argument of counsel at the April 11, 2018, preliminary
hearing, and the supplements filed by Plaintiff and County
Defendants, the Court determines that a Daubert
hearing on the Motion to Exclude is unnecessary and that the
Motion to Exclude is granted.
Wills' “Psychiatric Expert Report”
bases the Report on her review of Desiree Gonzales'
(Gonzales) psychological and medical records, her
rehabilitation records, her school records, court-related
records, state agency records, and expert reports. (Doc.
110-1) at 1-2. The Report contains a detailed “Case
Summary” setting forth a developmental history for
Gonzales, including descriptions of various family issues,
Gonzales' criminal conduct, and her substance use and
abuse. Id. at 3-13.
then lays out her various opinions, which she made
“with reasonable medical certainty.” Id.
at 14. Wills opined, in essence, that
(1) Gonzales' mother physically and emotionally
(2) abuse and neglect caused Gonzales' behavior to
deteriorate, including problems at school, criminal conduct,
and addiction issues;
(3) when Gonzales' problems transitioned from parental
neglect to “severe addiction and delinquency, ”
Gonzales' “prognosis, educational potential,
employment potential and life expectancy declined
(4) Gonzales' biological father “did very little to
improve his capacity to deal with [Gonzales'] behavior
when it became disruptive;”
(5) if Gonzales' biological father had alerted law
enforcement that Gonzales had contacted him, law enforcement
could have detained Gonzales on an outstanding warrant before
she could overdose on heroin for the last time on May 6,
(6) Gonzales' biological father profited from
Gonzales' death by keeping for himself 37% of the funds
raised for Gonzales' funeral and a youth organization;
(7) had Gonzales lived, “her lifetime earnings
potential would have been reduced because” of lack of
education, likelihood of future incarceration, lack of
responsibility, and addiction to heroin.
Id. at 13-17.
Wills' Substitute Affidavit
attests in her Substitute Affidavit that her opinions are
“based on training, experience and knowledge that is
generally accepted in the medical community.” (Doc.
173) at 5, ¶ 3. She further states that her
“opinions are based on data ascertained in a line of
inquiry that is referred to as a psychological
autopsy.” Id. at ¶ 4. A psychological
autopsy considers a decedent's “[d]evelopmental
history, medical history, educational history, legal history,
family history, social history and any other relevant
factors” to investigate “events that preceded his
or her death.” Id. at ¶¶ 4-5.
Neither the term “psychological autopsy” nor a
description of a psychological autopsy appears in the Report.
further notes that she has “an extensive background in
creating and reviewing psychological and medical records such
as those listed in [her] report.” Id. at 6,
¶ 9. Because interpreting psychological and medical
records “is likely outside the knowledge of most
jurors, ” Wills attests that her “comprehensive
developmental history” of Gonzales would be
“helpful to the jury….” Id. Wills
also attests that her Report and testimony would help a jury
understand how Gonzales “would have had a poor
prognosis, had she lived.” Id. at ¶ 10.