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United States v. Perrault

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 4, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ARTHUR PERRAULT Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARTHA VÁZQUEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defense's Opposed Motion for Daubert Hearing [Doc. 39]. In his Motion, Mr. Perrault requests that the Court conduct a Daubert hearing with respect to the United States' proposed expert, Dr. Gail S. Goodman. In its Response [Doc. 42], the United States requests that the Court deny Mr. Perrault's Motion for a Daubert hearing [Doc. 42]. In his Reply [Doc. 47], Mr. Perrault renews his request for a Daubert hearing in order to address the proposed expert testimony of Dr. Goodman. Having considered the Motion, relevant law, and being otherwise fully informed, the Court finds that Mr. Perrault's Motion is not well-taken and that a Daubert hearing is not warranted. Accordingly, the Motion will be DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         The United States filed a Notice of Intent to Offer Expert Testimony of child psychologist, Dr. Gail S. Goodman [Doc. 33]. Dr. Goodman received her B.A., M.A., and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Doc. 33-1 at 1. She is currently the Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis and previously served as president of the American Psychology Law Society (Division 41) and the American Psychological Association (Division 7). Id. at 1-2. She is a consultant for the Special Assault Forensic Evaluation Center of the Sacramento County Child Protective Services, has consulted with governments and agencies around the world on issues concerning child victims in the legal system, and has served as an expert in cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. Id.

         The United States posits that based on Dr. Goodman's knowledge, skill, training, research, and experience related to child sexual abuse, she is qualified to provide expert testimony in ten distinct areas relating to victim behaviors, reactions, and characteristics. Id. at 2-4. She would additionally offer evidence regarding delayed disclosure of abuse by child sexual assault victims, disclosure over time and in a piecemeal fashion, later attempts to recant or deny prior statements, triggering events or life changes that may impact delayed disclosure of abuse, and passive compliance by victims as well as conflicting feelings towards the offender. Id. Furthermore, she would testify about offender characteristics, including methods of grooming, influencing, persuading, coercing, forcing, threatening, or inducing victims into engaging in sexual acts. Id. at 4. The United States asserts that it reserves the right to elicit testimony “regarding other matters that may be raised during cross-examination” based on evidence introduced by Mr. Perrault or testimony elicited from his experts. Id. at 5.

         Mr. Perrault requests a Daubert hearing in order to address the proposed expert testimony of Dr. Goodman. See Doc. 39. He argues that Dr. Goodman will not be able to confirm or validate the allegations set forth in the Indictment, so the Court should address whether her testimony is admissible. Id. at 1. However, Mr. Perrault does not provide any legal authority in support of his argument.

         In response, the United States directs the Court to consider Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, stating that an expert whose testimony is both reliable and relevant may testify “in the form of an opinion or otherwise.” Doc. 42 at 3 (citing Fed.R.Evid. 702; United States v. Neris, Cr. No. 10-2604 MV, 2012 WL 13081447, at *1 (D.N.M. Feb. 17, 2012) (Vazquez, J.)). The United States points out that other courts have permitted testimony of child psychologists as expert witnesses in sexual abuse cases. Id. at 4. Specifically, child psychologists have been allowed to testify about “general behavior characteristics” of victims. Id. The United States also discusses the Court's “gatekeeper function, ” and the wide latitude it has in determining the reliability and admissibility of expert testimony. Id. at 5. Most germane to the instant matter, the United States argues that the trial court is not required to hold “reliability” proceedings where the reliability of an expert's methods is not in dispute or called into question. Id. (citing United States v. Velarde, 214 F.3d 1204, 1209 (10th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted)).

         The United States further argues that, contrary to Defense's assertions, Dr. Goodman is not a fact witness and is not permitted to offer her opinion about either John Doe's truthfulness or Mr. Perrault's guilt. Id. The United States notes that the expert's opinion may not “invade the province of the jury in determining guilt.” Id. at 3. Rather, it intends only to offer her testimony regarding “general characteristics of sexual abuse victims, including delayed disclosure, that are relevant to Defendant's case.” Id. at 6. With respect to reliability, the United States argues that Dr. Goodman is clearly an expert in the field, and highlights that Mr. Perrault does not dispute her expertise or reliability. Id. The United States further argues that her testimony is relevant because child psychology as it relates to sexual abuse victims is “beyond the ken of the average juror.” Id. (citing United States v. Michael, Cr. No. 06-1833, 2007 WL 9657855, at *3 (D.N.M. Nov. 15, 2007)(Armijo, J.)). It argues that her specialized knowledge will help the jury better understand the evidence and allow the jury to determine whether John Doe is credible and whether Mr. Perrault is guilty based on John Doe's testimony and other evidence. Id. at 7.

         The United States ultimately argues that a Daubert hearing is not necessary because the proffered testimony is not new or novel. Id. (citing United States v. Nichols, 169 F.3d 1255, 1263 (10th Cir. 1999)). Because Mr. Perrault has not sufficiently called into question Dr. Goodman's “qualifications, facts, data, principles, or methods, ” and he has not raised any arguments in favor of excluding her testimony based weighing its probative value against any Rule 403 dangers, the United States requests that the Court deny Mr. Perrault's Motion for a Daubert hearing. Id. at 7-8.

         In his Reply, Mr. Perrault does not dispute that qualified psychologists are often permitted to testify as experts in sexual abuse cases, but urges the Court to exercise its gatekeeping function in this case. Doc. 47 at 1. He argues that Dr. Goodman's expert testimony should be limited to the issue of “delayed disclosure” alone and renews his request for a Daubert hearing to address the proposed expert testimony. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Legal Standard

         Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence governs testimony by expert witnesses. It permits an expert who is qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education to 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 evidence ...

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