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United States v. Twaddle

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

October 26, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JERRY O. TWADDLE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT C. BRACK SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on two motions giving notice of the Government's intent to introduce expert testimony and requesting pretrial admissibility rulings on such evidence.[1] First, the Government's Notice of Expert Witness Testimony of Forensic Chemists/Scientists and Motion in Limine for Daubert/Velarde Ruling on its Admissibility. (Doc. 187.) Second, the Government's Notice of Intent to Offer Expert Testimony of DEA Special Agent Joseph Montoya and Motion in Limine for Ruling on Admissibility of Evidence. (Doc. 188.) In both motions, the Government has provided notice under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(G) that it intends to introduce expert testimony at trial, and requests that the Court rule the witnesses are qualified experts and that their testimony is admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. (See Docs. 187 at 1; 188 at 1.) Defendant has not opposed either motion. After considering the submissions of counsel and relevant law, the Court will grant the Government's motions as to the expert testimony that remains relevant to this case.

         I. Factual Background

         Defendant is charged in Counts 1, 28, and 31 of the Indictment with several violations of federal narcotics laws related to possession and trafficking of methamphetamine. (Doc. 2 at 2, 20- 21.) These charges include violations of 21 U.S.C. § 846, conspiracy to violate federal laws pertaining to controlled substances; § 843(b)(1), using a communication device to further the commission of a drug trafficking crime; and §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A), possession with intent to distribute 500 grams and more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine. (Id. at 2, 20-21.)

         In Count 1, Defendant is charged with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. (Id. at 2.) In Count 28, Defendant is charged with using a telephone to further the commission of a drug trafficking crime by allegedly communicating with a former co-defendant to coordinate Defendant picking up two pounds of methamphetamine from the co-defendant's residence and leaving $5, 000 in its place. (Id. at 20; see also Doc. 256 at 2.) After he retrieved the methamphetamine, Defendant then allegedly threw it from his vehicle during a high-speed chase after investigating officers attempted a traffic stop. (Doc. 256 at 3.) Based on this series of events, Defendant is charged in Count 31 with “unlawfully, knowingly, and intentionally possess[ing] with intent to distribute a controlled substance, 500 grams and more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine.” (See Doc. 2 at 21.)

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(G), the Government provided Defendant with a written summary of the testimony it intends to introduce under Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which governs expert witness testimony. (See Docs. 187; 188; 189.) At the same time, the Government requested pretrial orders that its expert witnesses be qualified as experts based on their experience and qualifications, and that their anticipated testimony be ruled admissible based on the pleadings. (See Docs. 188 at 6; 187 at 6.) Defendant has not responded to the Government's motions seeking pretrial admissibility orders, nor objected to the anticipated testimony of any of the proposed expert witnesses.

         Of the nine forensic chemists and scientists initially named as potential expert witnesses, the Government has indicated that, at trial, it will introduce testimony from only three of these experts: (1) DEA Forensic Chemist Denise Williams, (2) DEA Forensic Chemist Angela Cassady, and (3) New Mexico Department of Public Safety Forensic Scientist Patrick Chavez. (Doc. 187 at 1-2.)

         The Government anticipates that Ms. Williams, Ms. Cassady, and Mr. Chavez will testify “regarding the detection, identity, weight, and purity of a controlled substance.” (Id. at 6.) Summaries of Ms. Williams's and Ms. Cassady's anticipated testimony suggest that they will give opinions based on laboratory reports they prepared after “examin[ing] and analyz[ing] the substance(s) contained in the exhibit(s) which were submitted for analysis.” (Doc. 187-1 at 13, 17.) Both are Senior Forensic Chemists employed by the DEA, and the Government has submitted their qualifications and curriculum vitae. (See Id. at 13-20.) A summary of Mr. Chavez's anticipated testimony suggests that he will give his opinion as to evidence he analyzed for this case, and his “[t]estimony may include role in the lab, information from the CV, chain of custody, evidence handling and storage, technical/administrative review, and other relevant information as necessary.” (Id. at 34.) Mr. Chavez is a Forensic Scientist employed by the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and the government has submitted his qualifications and curriculum vitae. (Id. at 33-39.)

         The Government has also indicated that it will offer the expert testimony of DEA Special Agent Joseph Montoya, who will testify regarding the following subjects:

1. The manner in which individuals and organizations package, conceal, transport, and distribute methamphetamine.
2. The bulk and street values of the methamphetamine seized in this case.
3. The quantities of methamphetamine that are typically sold and consumed.
4. The amount of methamphetamine seized in this case is consistent with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.
5. The common ways in which individuals attempt to avoid detection by law enforcement by using prepaid telephones ...

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