A grand jury in Missouri decided on Monday not to indict Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager. Brown’s death has reignited the debate about law enforcement, race and power. The decision has led to riots and protests in multiple cities; people feel that justice was not served. Along with these protests, debates have started about possible ways to stop this from happening again. Michael Brown’s parents have opened the discussion by asking for “a sensible change in police procedures-namely, a move to equip street officers with tiny video cameras that would record interactions with citizens, including criminal suspects.” This is already taking place in a city in California and has seen a “dramatic reduction in use-of-force and complaints against officers.”
The Brown Family is holding a press conference now, tune in to follow the story.
The Sixth Amendment gives us the right to “be confronted with the witnesses against [us].” This is a rule that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld with few exceptions. The idea is that it is harder for someone to lie if they are facing both the court and the criminal defendant. Therefore, witnesses testifying through video is rarely seen. However, the present question is “whether it would make a difference if a witness testified by two-way video, with witness and accused able to observe each other simultaneously.”
The Supreme Court of Iowa ruled last week, saying “it depends.” Their reasoning is that while it doesn’t fully comply with the constitution, it should be judged on a case-by-case basis using U.S. Supreme Court standards. Justice Edward Mansfield of the Iowa Supreme Court said that “despite its preferability over one-way transmission, [he] does not believe two-way video-conferencing is constitutionally equivalent to the face-to-face confrontations envisioned by the Sixth Amendment.”
Source: The Des Moines Register
Ronald Harstad, a professor at the University of Missouri, was retained as an expert witness to calculate damages in a class action lawsuit. The case revolved around “alleged misrepresentations in the sale and marketing of prepaid calling cards.” The plaintiffs’ counsel (who retained Mr. Harstad) had come to an agreement (via a formal letter) that Mr. Harstad would produce monthly work logs, use students to help at a lower hourly rate, and that he would accept payment for each invoice over time. In April 2008, the plaintiffs’ counsel had supplied him with all the necessary information and Mr. Harstad calculated that the total costs for completing his reports would be $17,000 to $21,000.
Irrespective of his estimations, Mr. Harstad was paid $164,604.79 by September. In addition, he failed to complete invoices for October and November 2008 until December when he billed a total of $160,800 for all unpaid services through the end of that year. In January 2009, the plaintiffs’ counsel rejected that number and Harstad told them that if they did not pay, they were not allowed to use the reports that he completed. The plaintiffs’ counsel decided to hire a new expert witness who was able to complete everything they needed for $22,500.
The plaintiffs’ counsel “filed a declaratory judgment action to establish that they owed no futher amounts to Harstad. Harstad counterclaimed for breach of contract and unjust enrichment and sought $410,000 in damages.” The court rejected Harstad’s claim and decided that no further compensation was necessary. The court explained their decision, noting that Harstad broke the terms of the agreement and he had already received an amount that was far greater than his estimated price. Lastly, the court pointed out that because Harstad chose to void the agreement by refusing to let counsel use his reports, he could not sue for damages based on a breach of contract.
Source: The National Law Review
Our Co-founder and CEO, Mark Torchiana, recently spoke with Expert Witness Profiler about Courtroom Insight’s innovative knowledge management solution. The interview focused on the history and development of Courtroom Insight. When discussing key benefits and success stories, such as Littler Mendelson, Mark explained how Courtroom Insight differentiates itself from an in-house database.
“Courtroom Insight leverages its public directories of 100,000+ litigation professionals as a starting point. Our customizable templates offer firms an opportunity to begin capturing valuable firm-wide information immediately. We also add significant value by providing additional fully integrated content not available elsewhere. Publicly posted performance reviews, expert witness challenge data and inexpensive custom expert witness research are all available directly from Courtroom Insight. Our value proposition stems from this combination of a ready-made software platform with unique, integrated content.”
Click here to read the full interview.
A Sunlight analysis of the 113th Congress reveals that “when it comes to testifying before the House, men get a lot more to say than women”. As of September 1, there have been 5,575 witnesses identified to have appeared before House committees and only 23% of those experts have been women. Although women make up a little more than half the U.S. population they are underrepresented in Congress.
There are some committees where women are better represented than others. The House Committee on Agriculture heard from the fewest number of women at 13%, while the Committee on Education and the Workforce heard from the most women (“40 percent of the panel’s witnesses were female”).
Click on the graph for the breakdown of House witnesses by committee and gender.
Picture Source: Sunlight Foundation
I am pleased to announce the publication of Living Abled and Health: Your Guide to Injury and Illness Recovery. As one of the leading national experts on health and disability, Dr. Brigham relies upon his extensive training and experience to prepare a useful guide to change our perspectives about disability and to help patients learn to overcome health related obstacles. This book, unlike others, touches on all aspects of disability and the hurdles (medical, legal, and financial) that come along with it. This book is full of useful tips, resources and tools to get anyone from disabled to abled.
Importantly, Living Abled and Healthy is not only for patients. The book is also a tremendous resource for the many individuals impacted by disability issues, including attorneys, claims professionals, health care providers and employers. The Honorable David B. Torrey calls it a “Must read for everyone involved in worker’s compensation, including patients and lawyers.”
For more information, visit the official publication website.
The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
Mark Dershwitz, an anesthesiologist and pharmacologist, has offered his opinions as an expert witness for 22 states and the federal government for more than 10 years. Mr. Dershwitz was called by Ohio to defend their new two-drug lethal injection that led to an execution that lasted 26 minutes (this same drug combination resulted in another execution in Arizona that lasted two hours). However, he recently announced that he is terminating his “role as an expert witness on behalf of Ohio and all other states and the federal government.” He believed Ohio had “jeopardized his standing with the American Board of Anesthesiology in a news release it issued about the January 16 execution of Dennis McGuire.” The news release stated that the death was humane and it had “discussed the events and observations of the McGuire execution with its expert witness, Dr. Mark Dershwitz”. Anesthesiologists are not allowed to take part in the creation of any lethal injections and Mark Dershwitz maintains that there was no discussion about Dennis McGuire’s execution, he was simply informed of what happened. Mr. Dershwitz decided to terminate his role as expert witness because he is afraid that the mistakes that happened in Ohio could happen again and that’s a risk he is not willing to take. Although Ohio has supported Dershwitz’s story, he says it’s too late. He did, however, stand behind his testimony last year in which he said that he didn’t believe that McGuire suffered.
Dershwitz withdrew himself as an expert witness in cases challenging two death-row inmates in Montana in June. The cases have been postponed until next year because the state does not have another expert witness to replace him. “The US states that have the death penalty have been scrambling since a 2011 European-led ban stopped the import of drugs most commonly used to carry out executions.”
Sources: The Guardian and TribTown