Author Archives: Kimberly DelMonico

About Kimberly DelMonico

Kimberly DelMonico is a licensed attorney in New York and Nevada. She received her law degree from William S. Boyd School of Law at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and her undergraduate degree from New York University, where she studied psychology and broadcast journalism.

Stick Shift Manual Transmission

California Judge to Hold Daubert Hearing in Ford Defective Transmissions Suit

A California district court judge has denied a motion for summary judgment in the Ford defective transmissions lawsuit and will hold a Daubert hearing to determine reliability of plaintiff automotive technician expert.

The Defective Transmission Lawsuits

Dozens of plaintiffs filed separate lawsuits against Ford Motor Company, alleging that the power shift transmissions in some Ford Focus and Ford Fiesta models were prone to delayed acceleration and downshifting.  The plaintiffs claimed that some of these vehicles have crashed.

Specifically, the lawsuits alleged that transmissions in the 2012-2016 Ford Focus and the 2011-2016 Ford Fiesta are defective.  The lawsuits claim that dual-clutch DPS6 PowerShift transmissions tend to shudder, slip, jerk, hesitate and suffer other problems.

These lawsuits were consolidated into one multi-district litigation case held before U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. in the Central District of California.

Motion for Summary Judgment

In the case of Mary Cannon, Ford filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff failed to respond to written discovery, could not prove claims for intentional or negligent misrepresentation, and could not prove any alleged transmission defects. Ford also argued that claims for punitive damages should be dismissed because plaintiffs did not “have clear and convincing evidence that any act that harmed her was committed, authorized, or ratified by a Ford officer, director, or managing agent.”

Judge Birotte denied the motion.

Daubert Hearing Scheduled

Ford has argued that the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses are unreliable.  In the case of Christi Brown, Ford filed a motion to exclude plaintiff’s proposed expert, automotive technician Randall Bounds.

Ford wrote, “…Bounds…has experience fixing cars, but he is not qualified to opine on value and safety, and his ‘opinions’ are nothing more than pure guesswork with no valid basis.”

Ford continued, “His opinions are not supported by any facts or analysis, and he does not cite a single source to support whatever ‘methodology’ he applied…In addition to being unreliable, his opinions would not be helpful to the jury, as they amount to little more than thinly veiled legal conclusions on ultimate issues and are not based on any specialized knowledge or expertise. Bounds does not come close to employing the ‘level of intellectual rigor that [Rule] 702 requires’ for the admission of expert testimony.” 

Ford argued that Bounds does not have the scientific knowledge that is required by Daubert to be an expert witness.

Under Daubert, an expert witness may only offer opinion testimony if “(1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data; (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.”

Ford argues that to be admissible under Daubert, the testimony must be given by an expert witness who is qualified “by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education” —and that Bounds lacks the requisite scientific knowledge.

Judge Birotte is scheduled to hold the Daubert hearing on October 24, 2019 to determine if Bounds and other proposed experts will be allowed to testify at trial.

Baby powder

J&J Undercuts Testimony of Plaintiff’s Star Witness in Ongoing Asbestos Trial

The defense team for Johnson & Johnson attempted to undercut the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness; however, Dr. William Longo maintained his position. 

The Asbestos Controversy

Johnson & Johnson is currently on trial to determine if it’s baby powder, which was allegedly tainted with asbestos, caused Carolyn Weirick to develop mesothelioma.  Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer of the linings of the lungs.

Weirick is a former school counselor who reportedly used Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and its adult Shower to Shower powder for approximately 40 year. Weirick was diagnosed with mesothelioma and her doctors have given her little chance of survival.

Weirick’s case is one of hundreds of similar cases that are pending against Johnson & Johnson across the country.  Most of the cases involve women who claim that Johnson & Johnson’s powder caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

Plaintiff Expert Witness Testimony

Weirick and her defense team hired Dr. William Longo to testify as an expert witness at trial.

According to his website, Dr. Longo is a Material Scientist/Electron Microscopist who specializes in the analysis of asbestos containing materials. In 1983, he founded Micro Analytical Laboratories, which became one of the first commercial labs in the country to provide Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) analysis of asbestos-containing air and dust samples.  Under Dr. Longo’s guidance, MAS has grown “into a leading laboratory in the fields of chemical analysis and materials characterization for a number of industries including: occupational health safety, environmental, engineering services, industrial hygiene, and building and construction materials.”

Dr. Longo has served as an expert witness in numerous talc powder trials involving asbestos.

Johnson & Johnson’s Attempt to Discredit Dr. Longo

Johnson & Johnson’s defense team challenged Dr. William Longo’s testimony, attempting to use his own words against him.

Johnson & Johnson attorney Warrington Parker questioned Dr. Longo regarding whether Johnson & Johnson had exceeded industry testing standards during the 1970s with its use of high-powered microscopes.

Parker pointed to the fact that Dr. Longo had previously complimented the McCrone Group for being the best materials testing lab in the country.  The McCrone Group, located in Illinois, has supplied expert witnesses for Johnson & Johnson in its recent trials and has claimed that no asbestos has been found in its baby powders.

Parker said, “You said literally it (McCrone) was the best lab in the country.”  Dr. Longo acknowledged that he had made that statement.

Parker also questioned Dr. Longo about the Food & Drug Administration’s audit of his Georgia-based MAS lab.  Parker asked, “The FDA identified deficiencies, correct?” Parker asked. “They called them objectionable practices,” Longo said.

Parker asked Longo if the FDA audit identified contamination at the lab. Dr. Longo replied that the problem was simply a bureaucratic error in that forms had not been signed and that an unopened container was found.

Parker continued to question Longo, “You would agree attorneys for Johnson & Johnson asked you under oath about your lab that was found to be (FDA) un-compliant?” Dr. Longo agreed.

Continuing Trial

The trial against Johnson & Johnson is being held in Los Angeles Superior Court and is presided over by Judge Cary Nishimoto.  It is live streamed courtesy of Courtroom View Network.

accountant

AICPA’s New Standard Expected to Boost CPA Expert Credibility

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has issued a new forensic accounting standard that is expected to give CPAs a credibility boost when they serve as expert witnesses at trials.

Role of the AICPA

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is the world’s largest member association for the accounting profession. The organization was founded in 1887 and today has a membership of over 429,000+ members in 122 countries and territories.

The Forensic and Valuation Services (FVS) Executive Committee supports the AICPA by providing its members with information, advocacy, and leadership to enable them to perform valuable forensic and valuation services in the highest professional manner.

The AICPA Council has designated the FVS Executive Committee as a body to establish professional standards for its members. These standards are known as the Statements on Standards for Forensic Services (SSFSs). Members of the AICPA should be prepared to justify any departures from the SSFSs.

New Standard

The AICPA recently released its Statement on Standards for Forensic Services No. 1 (SSFS 1) to clarify the definitions of “litigation” and “investigation” for accounting purposes, detail key considerations for client and provider relationships, and establish boundaries on the services members can provide.

According to SSFS 1,

  • “Investigation” is a service performed in response to concerns of wrongdoing in which the member is engaged to perform procedures to collect, analyze, evaluate or interpret certain evidential matter to assist the stakeholders (for example, client, board of directors, independent auditor or regulator) in reaching a conclusion on the merits of the concerns.
  • “Litigation” is an actual or potential legal or regulatory proceeding before a trier of fact or a regulatory body as an expert witness, consultant, neutral, mediator or arbitrator in connection with the resolution of disputes between parties. The term litigation as used herein is not limited to formal litigation but is inclusive of disputes and all forms of alternative dispute resolution.

Annette Stalker, chair of the AICPA’s Forensic and Valuation Services Executive Committee,  stated, “These new forensic standards are the first time we are codifying best practices for litigation and investigation consulting work. . . . Forensic accounting is a diverse practice, and this standard is unique because it is applied based on why a service is provided — litigation or investigation — rather than what skill set is employed.”

SSFS 1 applies to all AICPA members, AICPA member firms and employees of AICPA member firms. The new standards take effect for new engagements accepted on or after January 1, 2020, with early adoption permitted.

Effect of the New Standard

According to Dave Duffus, a partner in the global forensic and litigation services practice at Top 15 Firm Baker Tilly, who also chairs the AICPA’s Economic Damages Task Force and sits on the AICPA’s Forensic and Litigation Services Committee, there are two big changes that the standard requires. First, “when we as CPAs are retained as expert witnesses, there are specific prohibitions in terms of doing that work under a contingent fee arrangement. That was not a specific callout before under the consulting standards, although I think tacitly most CPAs would recognize that it would not be appropriate to do expert work under a contingent fee arrangement.”

Duffus continued, “the second thing is it very explicitly states that we should not be rendering opinions about whether fraud has or hasn’t been committed. That’s a role for the trier of fact in a case, so we can present evidence that may be related to indicia of fraud but ultimately it’s up to a trier of fact to make that decision as to whether fraud has actually occurred.”

Court room

Conviction Overturned Because of Expert Therapist’s Testimony

A South Carolina man’s conviction for criminal sexual conduct with a minor has been reversed by the South Carolina Court of Appeals because the court found that the child’s therapist improperly vouched for the alleged victim’s testimony by testifying as both a lay witness and an expert witness.

The Alleged Crime

In 2015, training specialists from the Julie Valentine Center visited Mitchell Road Elementary School in Greenville, South Carolina to discuss safety and “inappropriate touching” with students. Approximately two weeks later, the alleged victim reported to her teacher that she had been sexually abused. The alleged victim was eight years old at the time.

Investigator David Picone of the Greenville County Sheriff’s Department spoke with the alleged victim, her mother, and her teacher about the disclosure. The alleged victim told Investigator Picone that she was abused by her sister’s boyfriend, Ontario Stefon Patrick Makins.

The alleged victim said that the abuse began when she was five years old. Investigator Picone followed the sheriff’s department procedure for referring children under the age of twelve to the Julie Valentine Center for a forensic interview.

Investigator Picone interviewed Makins and informed him of the allegations of sexual abuse, which he denied. Christine Carlberg of the Julie Valentine Center conducted a forensic interview with the alleged victim. After watching the forensic interview, Investigator Picone determined probable cause existed to arrest Makins.

Makins was charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor, first degree; lewd act upon a minor; and criminal sexual conduct with a minor, third degree.

The Trial

At Makins’s trial, the alleged victim testified that on more than one occasion, Makins asked her to perform oral sex, touched her inappropriately, and showed her a sexually-oriented website on his cell phone. The alleged victim admitted she lied to the police when she reported Makins threatened to kill her if she disclosed the abuse. 

During trial, the circuit court allowed the alleged victim’s therapist, Kristin Rich, to testify as both an expert in child sexual abuse trauma and as a fact witness regarding the allegations of sexual abuse. Makins’s counsel objected, but the circuit court overruled the objection.

The jury found Makins “not guilty” on the first degree criminal sexual conduct and lewd act indictments, but found him guilty of third degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. The circuit court sentenced Makins to ten years in prison.

The Appeal

Makins appealed his conviction, claiming that the circuit court erred in refusing to allow him to cross-examine the alleged victim about her prior allegations of sexual abuse and by allowing a therapist to essentially vouch for the alleged victim’s credibility by testifying both as a fact witness regarding the allegations of abuse and an expert witness on child sexual abuse trauma.

The South Carolina Court of Appeals agreed with Makins. In its opinion, it wrote, “We find Rich’s opinion testimony addressing the various manifestations of child sexual abuse, followed immediately by her affirmative response that she treated Victim, implied she believed Victim was telling the truth with respect to her allegations of sexual abuse. If Rich believed Victim had not been telling the truth, Rich would not have needed to treat her. As the circuit court warned, Rich’s testimony implied she was treating Victim for sexual trauma because Victim had suffered such trauma.”

The court reversed Makins’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.

Virginia court gavel

Judge Allows Funds for Digital Expert in Murder Trial

A Virginia district court judge has approved the use of funds for a defendant to hire a digital forensics expert to examine the cell phone and GPS data that is being used by the prosecutors in connection with his trial for murder. 

The Killing 

On February 13, 2018, Orange County authorities responded to Wendell’s Place Laundromat on Route 20 in Locust Grove, Virginia. There had been reports that a male was on the floor with a gunshot wound to the head. A 24-year-old man, Alisair Smith of Unionville, Virginia, was found lying on his stomach on the floor, along with three spent cartridges and a loaded cartridge.

While still on the scene, the lead investigator was notified that Michael Alan Humphries II, 37, had turned himself in at the local jail, saying that he had “shot a guy.”  Humphries reportedly told police that he suspected his wife was having an affair with the victim. The victim formerly served in the U.S. Army and was the father of a young daughter.

Video footage from the laundromat showed a man walking into the Laundromat, shooting the victim with a long rifle and then exiting the business. According to court records, there is also video footage that shows the defendant “going through the victim’s laundry in the dryer prior to the shooting.” 

Humphries was charged with first-degree murder and use of a firearm in commission of a felony in connection with Smith’s death. At his arraignment, Humphries pleaded not guilty.

Humphries’ Defense Pretrial Motions

Humphries was originally represented by court-appointed attorney Adam Rhea. However, four months ago, Humphries claimed ineffective assistance of counsel. He wrote a letter accusing Rhea of not putting in enough time to properly represent him in court and requesting a new lawyer. The district court granted Humphries’ request and court-appointed attorney David Randle has been representing Humphries since that date.

At a hearing in advance of Humphries’ trial, his attorney David Randle requested court funding to hire a digital forensics expert for Humphries’ defense. Randle argued in his motion that the commonwealth plans to present evidence using data related to Humphries’ movements leading up to the alleged homicide.

Judge Dale Durrer granted the motion and allocated up to $6,000 for a defense expert to analyze the cell and GPS data from Digital Forensics Corp. of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Case by the Commonwealth 

The Orange County Commonwealth has subpoenaed more than two dozen witnesses to testify at Humphries’ trial. These witnesses include: members of law enforcement, forensic scientists, Laundromat employees and family members of the defendant and victim. According to court records, other evidence will include audio interviews, surveillance footage, body cam footage and crime scene and autopsy photographs.

Attorney for the Orange County Commonwealth, Diana Wheeler stated that there may be some dispute at trial with the prosecution’s use of “certain photos from the crime scene.”

Humphries’ trial is scheduled to begin on September 27, 2019. Judge Durrer set a hearing for September 26 to consider any outstanding issues.

Florida Supreme Court

Florida Supreme Court Refuses to Reconsider Expert Issue

The Florida Supreme Court recently rejected a request for rehearing by the Code and Rules of Evidence Committee of The Florida Bar and Jacksonville attorneys Howard Coker and James Holland to reconsider whether it should adopt the Daubert standard for expert testimony admissibility.

Daubert in Florida

Florida is one of the states that until very recently followed the Frye standard for whether a court should allow an expert witness’ testimony into evidence.

Numerous business groups had lobbied for the change to the Daubert standard.  They argued that “junk science” was being allowed into cases under the Frye standard.

The Frye standard only requires that the party seeking to admit expert testimony establish the general acceptance of the underlying scientific principle and the testing procedures.

In 1993, following a revision to the Federal Evidence Code, the United States Supreme Court adopted a new standard for the admission of expert testimony in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Daubert is considered by some to be a stricter standard for allowing expert witness testimony than Frye. Under Daubert, a trial court judge must ensure that scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but also reliable.

Under Daubert, a trial court judge must consider:

  • Whether the theory or technique in question can be and has been tested
  • Whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication
  • Its known or potential error rate
  • The existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation
  • Whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community

Essentially, a trial court is required to analyze not only the relevance of the expert’s opinion, but also whether the manner in which the expert arrived at her conclusion is reliable.

Federal courts and the majority of state courts have adopted the Daubert standard. Today, thirty-six states are currently using some form of Daubert instead of Frye.

As recently as 2018, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed that Frye was the appropriate standard in Florida.  In DeLisle v. Crane Co., 258 So. 3d 1219 (2018), the court stated that “Frye, not Daubert, is the appropriate test in Florida.”

Requests for Rehearing

In May, after Florida governor Ron DeSantis appointed three new justices to fill vacancies, the Florida Supreme Court decided to move to the Daubert standard.

In In Re: Amendment to the Florida Evidence Code, No. SC19-107, the Florida Supreme Court overruled its decision in DeLisle and stated that Florida will now apply the Daubert standard to determine whether scientific evidence is admissible.

The court stated, “Daubert amendments remedy deficiencies of the Frye standard.” The court also noted that Daubert will create consistency across Florida’s state and federal courts and “promote fairness and predictability in the legal system, as well as help lessen forum shopping.”

In June, the Code and Rules of Evidence Committee of The Florida Bar committee filed a motion for rehearing. The Committee argued that the Supreme Court had made the change without going through a typical process for setting rules.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled 6-1 to reject the requests for rehearing. The court did not explain its reasoning. Justice Jorge Labrga was the lone dissenting justice.

DNA

DNA Testing Delays Murder Trial

The murder trial of a man who has been charged in the death of a Chesterton bartender will be delayed for three weeks so that DNA testing can be conducted on a strand of hair that was found at the crime scene. 

The Murder

On April 19, 2017, 23-year-old bartender Nicole Gland was found stabbed to death in her vehicle in a parking lot behind her place of work.

Christopher Dillard, 53, of Hobart was arrested in connection with Gland’s death. Dillard was a bouncer at the Upper Deck Lounge in Chesterton where Gland worked as a bartender.

Dillard was picked up by the police on the same day that Gland’s body was found. According to his charging information, Dillard allegedly told his girlfriend, “I killed that girl. I didn’t mean to.” The police have said that Dillard had indicated to his girlfriend “that the drugs had a hold of him.”

Authorities said that Dillard also admitted to the crime during an interrogation by the Chesterton police. However, Dillard’s alleged confession was subsequently tossed out by the Indiana appellate court because the Chesterton police ignored Dillard’s repeated requests to speak to an attorney.

Dillard pleaded not guilty and has been held in Porter County Jail while he awaits his trial.

The DNA Evidence

Investigators recovered one strand of hair from Gland’s vehicle that prosecutors want to have DNA-tested. The hair was found on the rear passenger door window trim of the vehicle in which Gland was found stabbed to death.

An analyst with the Indiana State Police laboratory has determined that the strand of hair “has sufficient root material for DNA testing”; however “the potential genetic material from the hair strand will be completely consumed” by the test.

The district attorney’s office wants to conduct DNA testing on the hair, which will destroy it.  Because the testing will destroy the evidence, Dillard’s defense team wants its own expert to be present for the testing. Obtaining the results of the test will take about six weeks.

New Trial Date

Dillard’s defense team requested that the trial date be pushed back because of the amount of time that the DNA test will take. Chief Deputy Prosecutor Armando Salinas objected to the requested delay.

Dillard’s public defender, Russell Brown, said that the delay was also necessary because he just received additional evidence in the case this week. Brown received this case last month after Dillard’s former public defenders, Bob Harper and then Bryan Truitt, had to step aside.

Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer told Brown, “The reason, in part, the evidence hasn’t been tested is because of your expert. … Your expert and the state have to communicate.  There has to be a trial.” However, Judge Clymer granted the request for a new trial date.

Dillard’s new trial date is set to begin on October 21, 2019.  It was previously set to begin on September 30. The trial is anticipated to take three weeks.

Dillard just recently made a motion to be released from jail while he was awaiting trial because he has exceeded the six-month limit that he could remain jailed without going to trial. However, his public defender, Russell Brown, acknowledged, that his client “admits this delay is chargeable to him.”

Last will

Aretha Franklin’s Will to be Examined by Handwriting Expert

The Queen of Soul passed away almost a year ago, but a drama is ongoing as the courts determine how she intended to dispose of her estate.

The Conflicting Wills

When Aretha Franklin passed away in August 2018, her family believed that she hadn’t left a will.  However, in May 2019, her family found three handwritten wills that gave conflicting direction on how to dispose of her estate. Two wills were found in a locked cabinet and the other was found in a spiral notebook that was stuffed underneath a couch cushion.

Each of the three documents states that her assets should be divided equally between her three younger sons and outlines instructions for the care of her eldest son, Clarence, who has special needs. Two of the wills were dated 2010 and one will was dated March 2014. All of the pages of the wills appear to be signed.

The purported wills are handwritten pages that were filled with scratched-out phrases and notes in the margins. They were not notarized or signed; however, this is not necessarily a problem because Franklin died in Michigan, which allows for “holographic” or handwritten wills. Handwritten wills are valid as long as they are signed and dated and the material portions of the document are in the testator’s handwriting. See MCL 700.2502(2). 

David Bennett, who was Franklin’s attorney for more than 40 years, filed the wills in probate court in Oakland County, Michigan. Bennett told the judge that he was unsure if the will was valid. Franklin’s estate released a statement saying the two of her sons objected to the wills.

In the will that was supposedly written in 2014, Franklin named her son Teddy the executor of her estate. Teddy’s name was then crossed out and Kecalf’s name was written in. Kecalf’s name was followed by the name of Franklin’s niece, Sabrina Owens. Owens’ name was also crossed out.

Probate Hearing

At a probate court hearing, it was revealed that the estate has already distributed $350,000 to Franklin’s four sons and $178,000 was stolen from the singer via bank fraud months before her August 2018 death.

Attorneys for Franklin’s heirs argued over the estate, leading Judge Jennifer Callaghan to place the estate administration under court supervision. While Franklin’s niece Sabrina Owens will remain the personal representative for the estate, the court will now have a hands-on role in decisions such as the sale of any property.

Handwriting Expert

Franklin’s son Kecalf Franklin hired forensic document specialist and handwriting expert Erich Speckin to examine the wills. Spreckin testified that it would take him about three hours to analyze the documents with equipment including a microscope and electrostatic device.

Speckin’s role is to affirm to the court that the will was written by Franklin in 2014 and that it has not been altered since. The other parties involved in Franklin’s estate (her sons Teddy and Clarence and her niece Sabrina) will also have the right to hire their own handwriting experts if they choose.

court

Psychiatrist To Testify in NXIVM “Cult” Trial

The prosecution in the case against NXIVM leader Keith Raniere has filed notice that it plans to call psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner as an expert witness at trial to help establish that NXIVM is similar to a cult.

NXIVM

NXIVM is a multi-level marketing company based in Albany, New York, that offers personal development seminars. NXIVM has been accused by former members of the organization of being a recruiting platform for a cult operating within it that was known as DOS or The Vow where women were branded into sexual slavery.

In early 2018, NXIVM founder Keith Raniere and his associate Allison Mack were arrested and indicted on charges including racketeering conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, sex trafficking conspiracy, sex trafficking, attempted sex trafficking, and conspiracy to commit identity theft.

Dr. Michael Welner’s Background

Dr. Welner is a clinical and forensic psychiatrist and Chairman of the Forensic Panel. He has acted as a lead forensic psychiatric examiner in many criminal proceedings. Dr. Welner is also known for innovations in forensic science, forensic psychiatry and justice, and protocols for prospective peer review in forensic medicine consultation.

Dr. Welner is best known for his work on cases including the Etan Patz disappearance and murder, the Elizabeth Smart kidnappers, the Xerox mass murders in Hawaii, and Andrea Yates’ trial for the murder of her five children.

Dr. Welner has also consulted for courts and examined defendants who have been involved in mass shooting and attempted mass shooting cases including Colorado’s James Holmes; NBC gunman William Tager; corrections officer George Banks, who killed 13; Tavares Calloway; and bias-hatred mass shooters Richard Baumhammers, Ronald Taylor, and Ronald Crumpley.

The Filing  

The prosecution’s filing indicates that Dr. Welner will testify about how Raniere and his associates engaged in practices that are similar to other cult-like groups. These practices include: aggressive recruiting tactics that are intended to lure recruits and foster their dependence, grooming the members’ moral and value systems to comply with the group, undermining the members’ senses of self, leveraging emotional vulnerability and trust to control the member, creating extreme power imbalances, isolating members from friends and family, and controlling the sex lives of members.

The filing states, “Dr. Welner has studied … cult-like organizations, large-group awareness trainings, the ‘human potential movement’, religious sects and chain-marketing organizations (the ‘comparative groups’), including financial and sexual exploitation and the psychological dynamics within the comparative groups. This includes the techniques of how intense attention and recruitment contributes to special relationships within which such exploitation takes place, and then to isolation through which recruits are controlled and exploitation perpetuates. As a clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Welner also has experience treating people who have left organizations like those described above.”

The prosecution also indicated that it is planning to call other expert witnesses to testify about: the psychiatric and physiological effects of social, perceptual, and occupational isolation; the behavior of victims of sex crimes including common misconceptions about victim behavior; and the psychiatric and physiological effects of lack of sleep and severe calorie restriction.

Expert Has Performed Autopsy on Jeffrey Epstein

New York City’s chief medical officer has performed an autopsy on Jeffrey Epstein, but the results were inconclusive.

Jeffrey Epstein’s Apparent Suicide

On Saturday, August 10, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons announced that Jeffrey Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. The agency called Epstein’s death an apparent suicide. Epstein, 66, was being held on sex trafficking charges.

Federal prosecutors charged Epstein with sex trafficking girls who were as young as 14 and orchestrating a sex trafficking conspiracy.  The indictment noted Epstein’s connections to numerous prominent figures including President Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and Prince Andrew.

In 2008, Epstein avoided federal criminal charges after prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to state charges of solicitation of prostitution from a minor and serve just 13 months in jail. While Epstein was in jail, he was allowed to leave for 12 hours a day, six days a week, to go to work at his office.

Just one day prior, thousands of documents from a civil suit had been released, implicating Epstein of sexually abusing underage girls. Epstein had previously tried to commit suicide and had just been released from suicide watch 11 days earlier. Epstein was on suicide watch from July 23 to July 29, which required him to have extra security.  There was no immediate explanation as to why Epstein had been taken off of suicide watch. The FBI said that it was investigating and Attorney General William P. Barr said that he would conduct a special inquiry into what happened.

Barr said, “I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody. … Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered.”

According to the jail policy, Epstein was supposed to have been checked on by two guards every 30 minutes. The New York Times reported that the guards “fell asleep, failed to check on him for about three hours and falsified records to cover up their mistake.” Epstein was also supposed to be housed with a cellmate, but his cellmate had recently been transferred. This decision was another violation of the jail’s procedures.

Epstein’s defense team declined to comment on the circumstances of his death, but released a statement saying, “We are enormously sorry to learn of today’s news. No one should die in jail.”

The Autopsy

Dr. Barbara Sampson is the chief medical examiner in New York City. Dr. Sampson released a statement saying that a city medical examiner performed an autopsy on Epstein while a private pathologist observed; however, more information is needed before a cause of death determination is made.

The private pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, observed the autopsy at the request of Epstein’s representatives. Dr. Baden was the chief medical examiner in New York City in the late 1970s and has been an expert witness in such high-profile cases as O.J. Simpson’s 1994 murder trial.

The Medical Examiner concluded that Epstein’s death was caused by hanging and that his death was a suicide. While the Medical Examiner’s conclusion refutes unfounded conspiracy theories that have surrounded the death, the private expert who observed the autopsy has not yet made a public statement about the cause of death.