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United States v. Perrault

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 22, 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 the government's Motion to Preclude Expert Testimony of Dr. Mark Chambers [Doc. 70]. In the Motion, the government moves the Court to preclude the proffered testimony of proposed expert witness for Mr. Perrault, Dr. Mark J. Chambers. Doc. 70 at 1. The Court held a Daubert hearing on March 14, 2019 to determine the admissibility of Dr. Chambers' testimony. Having considered the Motion, relevant law, expert witness testimony, and being otherwise fully informed, the Court finds that the government's Motion is not well-taken and will be DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 8, 2019, Mr. Perrault filed a Notice of Intent to Offer Expert Testimony of an expert in clinical and forensic psychology, Dr. Mark J. Chambers [Doc. 67]. Dr. Chambers received his B.A. and M.A. at Stanford University, followed by a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Northwestern University. Doc. 67-1 at 1. Since 1999, he has been in private practice, working with both children and adults. In addition to his clinical experience which dates back to 1986, he has taught at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and at the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology. He has also served as Director of Legal Psychology Consulting, Clinical Supervisor at the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology, and a Research Associate at the Leo Burnett Company.

         Based the information contained in Dr. Chambers' curriculum vitae, Mr. Perrault asserts that Dr. Chambers is qualified to provide expert testimony in two main areas. First, Mr. Perrault will offer testimony regarding several areas relating to the fundamental tenets of human memory and the factors that influence the reliability of memory. Doc. 67 at 1. During the Daubert hearing, Mr. Perrault advised the Court that with respect to this topic, he is only seeking to admit testimony regarding the passage of time, interference from external sources including therapy and media reports, and internal motivations and rewards. He will no longer seek to admit expert testimony regarding personal biases and prejudices, internal self-schemas, or types of memory inconsistencies that are not in line with expected memory errors. The second main area of proffered evidence concerns the motives and circumstances typically associated with false sexual abuse allegations, including deflection and personal gain. Id. at 2. Mr. Perrault further asserts that Dr. Chambers reserves the right to modify his opinions and conclusions based upon new facts, as well as the right to elicit testimony regarding other matters based on testimony provided by the government's expert or other witnesses, including Mr. Perrault. Id.

         In its Motion, the government requests that the Court preclude the proffered testimony of Dr. Chambers pursuant to Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence and Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), as well as other testimony from Dr. Chambers on the ultimate issue of the case pursuant to Rule 704 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Doc. 70 at 1. The government argued that Mr. Perrault has not satisfied the requirements under Rule 702 to establish that Dr. Chambers is qualified as an expert on the subject matter of the proffered testimony. Id. at 2.

         The government also argues that portions of Dr. Chambers proffered testimony may be impermissible pursuant to Rule 702 if it is offered to challenge the veracity of John Doe, as witness credibility is not an appropriate subject for expert testimony. Id. at 3.

         Finally, the United States argues that, pursuant to Rule 704, Dr. Chambers should not be permitted to offer opinion testimony on the ultimate issue of the case. Id. Based on these arguments, the United States moves the Court to preclude the testimony of Mr. Perrault's proposed expert witness, Dr. Chambers. Id. at 4.

         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 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 ...

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