Category Archives: Expert Opinions

Police

Expert on Police-Involved Shootings Cleared to Testify in Murder Trial

An expert on police-involved shootings on officers has been cleared to testify in the murder trial of Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke.

The Shooting

On October 20, 2014, Chicago police officers responded to reports of someone breaking into vehicles. The responding officers found 17-year-old Laquan McDonald behaving erratically and holding a knife. McDonald did not respond to police commands to drop the knife.

Officer Jason Van Dyke arrived on the scene and opened fire on McDonald. Dashcam video footage showed that Van Dyke began shooting at McDonald within seconds of exiting his vehicle while McDonald was walking away from the officers. McDonald was shot 16 times. He died enroute to the hospital.

The video of the shooting caused a public outcry resulting in the firing of then-police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

Expert Testimony

Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in connection with McDonald’s death. Van Dyke is the first Chicago police officer in decades to face a first-degree murder charge in connection with an on-duty fatality. Van Dyke maintains that he shot McDonald in self-defense, fearing that McDonald was a threat to his life.

Dr. Laurence Miller, a clinical and forensic psychologist, was retained by the defense to testify on Van Dyke’s behalf. Miller specializes in psychotherapy, neuropsychology, forensic psychology, and business psychology. Miller’s Psychology Today profile lists him as having “special expertise in working with law enforcement and emergency service personnel (police, firefighters, medics) and with crime victims and their families.” Miller is the police psychologist for the West Palm Beach Police Department, a mental health consultant for the Florida Highway Patrol, a forensic psychological examiner for the Palm Beach County Court, and a consulting psychologist with several regional and national law enforcement agencies.

Dr. Miller conducted a psychological evaluation of Van Dyke on April 1, 2016. Van Dyke’s defense team wants Miller to testify about the effect of police-involved shootings on officers, including “alterations in perceptions, thinking, behavior and memory.”

The special prosecutor, Joseph McMahon, sought to bar Dr. Miller from testifying at trial. The prosecution argued that the defense was trying to bring out issues through Dr. Miller that should only be addressed by Van Dyke if he chooses to take the stand in his own defense. McMahon argued that Van Dyke can take the witness stand to address his state of mind at the time of the shooting. He wrote, “The jury does not need the assistance of an expert in determining the actions that took place on October 20, 2014. . . The jury will have an opportunity to view the video of the shooting.”  He stated, “the jury does not need (him) to tell them what thoughts were going through the defendant’s mind before and during the shooting, because only the defendant can know that information. . . . Any testimony related by (Miller) in that regard is inadmissible, self-serving hearsay.”

Judge Vincent Gaughan ruled that Dr. Miller will be allowed to testify about “the ultimate issue,” which is Van Dyke’s state of mind during the shooting.

Russian Hackers

Classification Czar to Testify at Media Leaker Trial

The defense team for a U.S. Air Force veteran who has been accused of leaking classified information to the media has announced that it intends to call the U.S. government’s former “classification czar” to testify as an expert at trial.

The Leaked Document

Reality Winner, 25, is accused of leaking a document to the media that included specifics on attempts by Russian operatives to hack state election systems in the days leading up to the 2016 presidential election. The document was published in redacted form by The Intercept. The document described two cyberattacks by Russian military intelligence against a company that sells voter registration software and against 122 local election officials. According to The Intercept, the document contained intelligence acquired by the National Security Agency and provided “a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking.”

The Intercept said that the May 5 intelligence report had been submitted anonymously. However, soon after the article was published, the Justice Department announced that the FBI had arrested Winner in connection with the leak. The NSA had performed an audit that showed that six people had printed out the report at issue. Out of the six, Winner was the only one who had been in contact with the media outlet. The Justice Department also said that Winner had confessed to printing out an intelligence file and mailing it to an online news outlet.

Following Winner’s arrest, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein stated, “Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation’s security and undermines public faith in government. . . . People who are trusted with classified information and pledge to protect it must be held accountable when they violate that obligation.”

Winner, who had been working for a National Security Agency contractor at the time of her arrest, was charged under the Espionage Act. The Espionage Act is meant to prevent military secrets from being stolen from the United States and a conviction carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Winner has already spent one year in jail awaiting trial. The government has argued that Winner is a national security risk and she has been denied bail repeatedly. Winner’s prosecution is the first criminal prosecution for a leak case under the Trump administration.

The Classification Czar

Winner’s defense team has announced that it intends to call J. William Leonard, the U.S. government’s former “classification czar,” as an expert witness at trial. Leonard formerly served as the director of the U.S Information Security Oversight Office. Leonard spent 35 years in government, with many of them assigned to the Defense Department. Leonard was responsible for declassifying information that was wrongly classified during the George W. Bush administration.

Leonard is expected to offer testimony as to whether the document that Winner is accused of leaking was actually classified and whether the leak caused any harm. Leonard’s testimony will also include a review of information from other public sources.

For Winner to be convicted under the Espionage Act, the prosecution must show that the document’s disclosure potentially damaged national defense or could be useful to a foreign enemy. The government must also show that the document was “closely held” and not available to the general public.

MA-Massachusetts

Gang Expert to Testify in Beheading Trial

A Boston gang expert will be called to testify in the trial of Mathew Borges, a teen who is accused of beheading his high school classmate, Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino.

The Crime

On November 18, 2016, sixteen-year-old Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino went missing.  His family reported him missing the following day. His body wasn’t found until December 1, 2016, when a woman who was walking her dog spotted it near the Merrimack River. Viloria-Paulino’s body was found decapitated, with his head discovered a short distance away.

The Arrest

Police arrested Viloria-Paulino’s classmate, Matthew Borges, for the murder. When Viloria-Paulino’s body was found, the police questioned Borges. Borges,15, told police that he had walked to the river with Viloria-Paulino to smoke marijuana on the last night the he was seen. A witness also told investigators that Borges had confided in him, “Mathew told him he did something bad. . . . Mathew then told him that he stabbed a kid and cut off his head killing him. When Mathew said this he was motioning with his hands as if he was stabbing someone and cutting someone’s head off.”

Police also seized Borges’ cell phone and phone records. The phone contains a deleted message from October 2016 where Borges allegedly wrote, “You and I need to discuss demons we will face when the task is done.” Borges’ defense attorney, Edward Hayden, filed a motion to suppress the evidence that was retrieved from the cell phone.  Judge James Lang denied the motion.

Borges is facing a first-degree murder charge and will be tried as an adult.  Borges pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Expert Witness

Borges’ defense attorney hired Emmett Folgert, a gang expert and executive director of the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, to testify at trial. Folgert is a program developer, gang peace negotiator, and public policy advocate whose experience includes creating workforce training programs for youth with criminal records as well as direct service to street gangs, runaway homeless youth and substance abusers. Folgert was one of the architects of the Boston Miracle, a highly effective community and police partnership that reduced violence in Boston.

Folgert said that he does not have specific knowledge about this case and that he does not plan to interview Borges. He stated, “I have been called by the defense to talk about the organization of gangs in general and the Latin Kings.” Folgert explained gang leaders will order minors to “do murders to cover for older gang members.” These minors are known as “crash dummies” or “crashes” and are used to give the gang leaders deniability.

Lawrence police Chief Roy Vasque said that that the city used to have a serious problem with the Latin Kings gang, but that it had been “pretty much dismantled.” Vasque noted that the city is currently combating the Trinitarios gang, which has ties to New York and New Jersey. Vasque said that he can not comment specifically on the Borges case because of a gag order by the Essex District Attorney’s Office.

Fire

Fire Marshal Testifies that Fire Was Intentional

A senior deputy state fire marshal has testified in the trial of Robert Schech Sr. Evidence showed that the fire was intentionally set.

Donna Schech’s Death

Robert Schech Sr. is on trial for first-degree murder, first-degree arson, felony murder and malicious burning in connection with the death of his wife, Donna Schech. Donna Schech died on November 13, 2016 of heat and smoke-related injuries in a fire. Robert Schech is accused of setting the fires that caused Donna’s death.

Robert Schech’s Trial

The state called Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Michael Selvage to testify as an expert in fire investigation and to determine the origin and cause of the fire. Selvage testified that fire investigations involve systematic approaches and the use of the scientific method. He said, “We don’t just run in and start doing things. It’s very specific.”

Selvage showed the court images from the scene of the fire taken by investigators and by drone video. Selvage showed that the right side of the home was almost completely consumed by the fire; the left side of the home, near the master bedroom where Donna Schech’s body was found, was more intact. Selvage pointed out that objects on the floor of the bedroom were consumed by fire and the patterns around the ceiling and walls were consistent with a fire progressing into a room. Selvage testified that the official Fire Marshal’s report listed the two origins of the fire as the dining room of the first floor and the bottom landing and steps of the basement. Selvage said that the fire’s cause was listed as incendiary, which meant that it had been deliberately set.

Defense attorney Joseph Murtha cross-examined Selvage. Murtha asked Selvage if Schech’s statements to investigators were taken into consideration when determining the origin and cause of the fire. Murtha asked what the standard was for believing Schech’s statements.

Under questioning, Selvage said that investigators returned to the scene of the fire more than one year later to gather additional data and perform due diligence. During this visit, control samples of the carpet in the living room were collected from under an entertainment system. The sample was used to compare to the carpet that was between the living room and dining room that was confirmed to contain gasoline. Tests on the control sample showed that the sample did not contain petroleum. Investigators also found a gas can under debris by the front of the carport that they believed was present on the night of the fire.

Murtha questioned how investigators could be sure that degradation and spoliation had not occurred in the 15 months since the fire. Murtha asked if there was any way to know how much accelerant was present in the areas it was located. Selvage responded that there was no way to determine the amount of accelerant.

Murtha asked Selvage whether the gasoline or gas cans could have been moved to different locations by firefighters. Selvage said that it was unlikely that this could have happened. Selvage said that the helmet camera footage showed that the gas cans would have been under at least a foot of debris before any firefighting began.

A defense expert, Craig Beyler, challenged the investigator’s findings and concluded that the fire was accidental.

Verdict

The case was tried to a judge, not a jury. Judge Thomas Stansfield concluded that a reasonable doubt existed as to guilt, and found Schech not guilty of all charges. Schech was released from custody after spending 539 days in jail.

Michigan

Expert Testifies Flint Death Not Legionnaires’ Disease

An infectious disease expert has testified that a Flint-area man who died in 2015 did not die from Legionnaires’ disease.

Flint Legionnaires’ Crisis

In 2014 and 2015, a Legionnaires’ outbreak in the Flint area killed 12 people and caused at least 79 others to become ill. The State of Michigan charged its state chief medical officer Eden Wells with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths. Wells is also facing charges of lying to a special police agent, misconduct in office, and obstruction of justice. The manslaughter charge carries a prison term for up to 15 years and a $7,500 fine. The obstruction charges carries a sentence of up to two years. Governor Rick Snyder kept Wells in her post despite the criminal charges against her.

Expert Testimony

At trial, Wells’ defense team called Dr. Jeffrey Band to testify as an expert witness. Dr. Band is an epidemiologist who works at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. Dr. Band reviewed the patients’ records to prepare his testimony.

Dr. Band testified extensively about the 2015 death of John Snyder. Band opined that Snyder’s death was not Legionnaires’ disease. Band said that he “absolutely” considered that Legionella could have been the cause of death, but he was ultimately able to determine that it was not the cause. Band stated that Snyder suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, which can cause a person to exhibit “false positives” for Legionella.

Dr. Band stated that Snyder’s records showed that he declined his doctor’s request to replace his pacemaker with a defibrillator, which meant that Snyder was “at risk for sudden death.” Band noted that Snyder did not have a fever, which is a symptom of Legionnaires’. He said, “He was not found to have an elevated white count. With Legionnaires’ disease, one of the features is a very high fever and it’s unremitting. It stays up there. And Mr. Snyder did not have any fever.”  Band testified that Snyder’s heart was “down to, at most, 30 percent functioning” and that he also suffered from “bilateral density in the lungs,” which caused additional problems.

On cross-examination, Special Prosecutor Todd Flood asked Band when the public should be notified about a deadly disease. Band testified that the 2014-2015 Legionnaires’ diagnoses constituted a “smoldering outbreak” with a small number of cases over a period of time. Band opined that the public did not need to be notified because it would cause a panic as the disease cannot be treated by a vaccine like other diseases. Flood noted that Band’s opinion was counter to the doctors from Wayne State University who testified that the public should have been notified of the outbreak.

Band revealed that he was compensated $400 per hour for his time, for a total of approximately $19,000. Band stated that he resented Flood’s assertion that he was being “paid” for his opinion. Flood stated that, “I’ve never implied that the Legionella situation in Genesee County was not significant.”

A gun in a car seat

Judge Allows Re-Deposition of Police Procedures Expert

A judge has ruled that the defense attorneys for Nouman Raja will be allowed to re-depose the state’s expert on police procedures.

Corey Jones’ Shooting

Nouman Raja, a former Palm Beach Gardens police officer, is on trial for manslaughter and attempted murder in connection with the 2015 shooting death of 31-year-old Corey Jones.

On October 18, 2015, Jones was stranded on the side of the road and on the phone with roadside assistance. Officer Nouman Raja approached Jones in plainclothes. Raja was wearing jeans, a T-shirt, a ball cap and driving an unmarked cargo van.

Jones died after Raja shot him three times. Raja claims that he clearly identified himself as a police officer and that he only shot Jones after he charged at him with a gun. However, an audio recording of Jones’ call with the roadside assistance operator contradicts Raja’s version of the events. Additionally, a 911 call that Raja made raised questions because Raja is heard yelling at someone to drop a gun, but medical examiner’s reports revealed that Jones was likely dead at the time that Raja made the 911 call.

Expert Witnesses

The state presented W.D. Libby as an expert on police procedures. Libby has spent 38 years in law enforcement; 16 of those years were spent as a police chief. Libby has a law degree and is experienced in overseeing police standards.

In Libby’s report, he opined that Raja acted incorrectly when he approached Jones’ broken-down SUV while he was working plainclothes on burglary surveillance. Libby stated that, by parking in front of Jones, Raja left his vehicle “in such a position that it did not protect him or Corey Jones.” Libby opined that Raja should have parked behind Jones and called for backup.

Libby also opined that Raja failed to follow proper procedures by approaching Jones. Libby cited the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommendation that plainclothes officers “present proper identification. If requested, let the driver examine your credentials so that they are satisfied that you are a law enforcement officer.”

Libby stated that Raja acted in violation of supervisor’s orders by failing to wear a tactical vest, which would have identified him as a police officer. Libby said that Raja “did not verbally announce who he was, why he was there, or indicate police authority, violating accepted police practice.”

Raja’s attorney, Scott Richardson, challenged the consistency of Libby’s opinion. He said, “We felt there was an inconsistency, a discrepancy between what the state’s expert witness had testified to and what was said later in another deposition.” Richardson also questioned whether the state had been withholding information about Libby’s opinion on whether use of force was justified in this case.

Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer decided that defense attorneys will be allowed to re-depose Libby. Richardson will be allowed to ask Libby about his opinion on whether use of force was justified in this case, when he formed that opinion, and when he disclosed that opinion to the state. Libby previously opined that, “I do not believe the forensic evidence supports [Raja’s] version of events.”

Raja’s attorneys plan to file a separate motion to have Libby’s testimony excluded entirely.

Empty Hall

Expert Testifies That Coolers Made Conditions Worse in Nursing Home

An air-conditioning engineer has testified that the portable air conditioning units in a Florida nursing home where twelve elderly patients died of overheating made the conditions worse.

The Deaths

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is a 150-patient facility that lost its main air conditioning system during Hurricane Irma. The system was knocked out on September 10; by September 13, patients began dying and the facility was evacuated. Twelve patients died as the result of overheating. The deaths were ruled homicides. Authorities say that the temperature in the home reached dangerous levels, despite the nine portable air conditioners that were deployed after the main system was knocked out. Florida law requires nursing homes to maintain a temperature of 81 degrees or less.

The Lawsuit

Following the deaths, Governor Rick Scott ordered the state Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to prevent the home from taking on new residents. AHCA also stopped Medicaid patients and eventually pulled the Rehabilitation Center’s license, alleging that the Rehabilitation Center presented a threat to public health, safety, or welfare and that “deficient practices exist presently and will more likely than not continue to exist if the agency does not act promptly.” The Rehabilitation Center closed its facility and laid off 245 employees.

The nursing home filed a lawsuit against the state, seeking injunctions against AHCA’s orders. The Rehabilitation Center claimed, “With the stroke of a pen, AHCA (the Agency for Health Care Administration) has effectively shut down Hollywood Hills as a nursing home provider in Broward County. . . . These illegal and improper administrative orders took effect immediately and without any opportunity for the facility to defend itself against unfounded allegations.”

The state hired William Crawford, an air-conditioning engineer, as an expert witness. Crawford offered testimony in the form of a deposition before the Rehabilitation Center’s attorney, Geoff Smith. Crawford testified that the portable air conditioners used by the home were insufficient and that they only produced about 10 percent of the cooling capacity of the home’s central air conditioner that was knocked out by the storm.

Crawford testified that the air conditioners were not properly vented. Air conditioners function by taking hot air from an enclosed space and moving it outside. The Rehabilitation Center’s first floor portable air conditioners vented the hot air to the ceiling, which meant that the first floor’s hot air went to the second floor and back to the first floor. Crawford testified that the air temperature between the first-floor ceiling and second floor floor ranged somewhere between 95 degrees and 110 degrees.

Crawford said that the improper ventilation of the air conditioners caused the temperatures within the building to increase. He said, “I can say with certainty it was above 81” in most of the facility. He conceded that it was possible that it was cooler within the 9 feet of the five portable units that were on the first floor; however, he asserted that “There was no way they maintained 81 degrees on the second floor.”

Ship

Judge Allows Expert Testimony in Carnival Cruise Lines Negligence Case

A federal judge has ruled that two expert witnesses for the plaintiff will be allowed to testify in a negligence lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Lines and its partners.

The Incident

In 2015, David Carideo was on an electronic music themed “Groove Cruise” run by Carnival Cruise Lines and Whet Travel Inc. During this cruise, alcohol was sold both on the ship and  during shore excursions. Carideo alleges that he was attacked by two of his fellow passengers. Carideo claims that his attackers threw him to the ground and beat him, resulting in a fractured skull and permanent injury to his head. A Carnival security officer who was patrolling the deck above heard the altercation and responded to the scene, but by the time he arrived, Carideo had already been beaten.

Expert Witnesses

Carideo filed a negligence suit against Carnival and its partners in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida. Carideo claims that the attack was fueled by alcohol. He alleges that Carnival and Whet Travel benefited financially from selling alcohol in profuse quantities and that security measures were insufficient to ensure passenger safety. Carideo claims that the Groove Cruise was “three days of partying, billed as an electronic music dance party” where passengers “became intoxicated to the point of vomiting around the ship and reaching points of inebriation, such that they became physically ill.”

Carideo retained Dr. Ross Klein and Howard Wood to testify as expert witnesses. Dr. Klein is sociologist who the plaintiff retained to testify as an expert on the cruise industry and plans to offer testimony on the foreseeability of crime on a cruise ship. Wood is a security and counterterrorism expert who will testify about Carnival’s security measures and its ability to prevent crime onboard its ships.

Carnival filed a Daubert motion, challenging the testimony of both proposed experts. In the motion, Carnival argued that Dr. Klein and Mr. Wood’s opinions were not supported by a reliable methodology and that they were based on lack of applicable expertise. Carnival noted that Dr. Klein did not have any academic training in law enforcement, criminology, security, criminal investigations, or tourism. Carnival challenged Mr. Wood’s opinions because his report did not explain how or why his experience led to an acceptable and reliable methodology and because his report was full of advocacy.

Carnival essentially asked the court to rule whether a person can testify as an expert witness if he or she has no formal academic training or actual work experience in the field, but instead obtained knowledge through research and review.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman ruled that Dr. Klein and Mr. Wood will be allowed to testify and stated that any doubts that the defendants have about the expert’s credibility are best addressed during cross-examination. In his order, Judge Goodman stressed that “a less-than-perfect expert opinion may still be admitted, even if it contains gaps” and noted that the court “must be careful not to conflate questions of admissibility of expert testimony with the weight appropriately to be accorded such testimony by the fact finder.”

Bullets

Ballistics Expert Testifies in Trial About Teen’s Shooting

A ballistics expert has offered testimony in the federal lawsuit over the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Justus Howell that happened in 2015.

The Shooting

In April 2015, Zion police officer Eric Hill responded to reports of a fight between two men and gunshots. According to authorities, Justus Howell had been trying to steal a semi-automatic pistol from a man from whom he had originally arranged to purchase it. A surveillance video shows the two men fighting, Howell pointing the gun at the other man, the man pushing the gun away, and the gun discharging.

Officer Eric Hill arrived on the scene. Hill claims that after a short chase and telling Howell to stop, he saw a flash of silver in Howell’s hand that he determined to be a gun. Hill says that he feared for his life and the lives of the other officers, so he shot Justus Howell two times.

In May 2015, Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim found that Officer Hill’s use of force was justified.

Trial Testimony

Howell’s grandmother sued Hill and the city of Zion for damages, claiming that Officer Hill acted recklessly and with excessive force when he shot her grandson. The attorney for the plaintiff argued that Hill covered up his actions after the shooting and that he “doctored” the scene. The plaintiffs argue that the gun found on Howell was in his pocket and later placed on the grass.

Attorneys for the plaintiff retained Ronald Scott as an expert witness. Scott is a forensic ballistics expert who has served 25 years with the Massachusetts State Police. Scott reviewed all of the documents related to the shooting, the surveillance video footage, and Hill’s personnel files. Scott testified that he “consider[ed] [Hill] to be an above-average trained police officer.”

Scott testified that the forensic evidence and the surveillance video show that Howell was nearly doubled over when he was shot by Hill. This would be inconsistent with Hill’s statement that he fired at Howell after he had turned a gun on him.

Scott also testified that he was able to determine Hill’s approximate position during the shooting by analyzing the shell casings that were found at the scene and Howell’s autopsy. Scott testified that Hill shot Howell and the bullets entered his body diagonally from the left to the right.

Scott also noted that the surveillance video did not show a reflection of a gun or light-colored object in Howell’s hand. The gun that was found at the scene had a silver finish.

Defense attorney Thomas DiCianni questioned Scott’s credibility and testimony. DiCianni cited to a deposition whether lawyers hired him to “bust a hole” in Hill’s testimony. Scott replied that his responsibility is to the evidence. DiCianni cited a forensics handbook on police shootings that said that shell casings were unreliable evidence. DiCianni also pointed out the the gun found at the scene had a matte finish, so would not have flashed in the video footage.

Verdict

The jury evidently rejected the expert testimony. It returned a verdict in favor of the defense, finding that the evidence failed to establish that Hill used excessive force.

Monsanto

Monsanto Judge Rules Expert Opinions Are “Shaky”

The federal judge presiding over the high-profile Monsanto Roundup lawsuit has determined that the experts testifying against it have “shaky” opinions.

The Lawsuit

Monsanto is being sued by multiple parties who claim that the active ingredient in its herbicide Roundup, glyphosate, has caused non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The lawsuits were consolidated into a multidistrict case in San Francisco presided over by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria. This case includes over 700 farmers, landscapers, and gardeners who claim that their non-Hodgkin lymphoma was caused by exposure to glyphosate.

Glyphosate/Roundup is the most widely used agrichemical. It was introduced by Monsanto in 1974 and its use exploded in 1996 when Monsanto introduced “Roundup-ready” seeds that were engineered to resist glyphosate.

Expert Testimony

Judge Chhabria held a causation hearing and heard testimony from numerous experts including toxicologists, statisticians and an oncologist. Judge Chhabria was particularly interested in testimony from the epidemiologists, who study how human contract diseases. Judge Chhabria said, “I do have a difficult time understanding how an epidemiologist in the face of all the evidence that we saw and heard last week” can conclude that glyphosate “is in fact causing” non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans. “The evidence that glyphosate is currently causing NHL in human beings” at current exposure levels is “pretty sparse.”

All but one of the plaintiffs’ experts relied upon a 2015 study conducted by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The IARC study concluded that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen. Judge Chhabria said that the IARC study alone was not enough to argue that the glyphosate is more likely than not to be the cause of plaintiffs’ cancer. Other studies, including a 2017 review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have concluded that glyphosate is not a carcinogen. The attorney for the plaintiffs, Brent Wisner, argued that the judge should not reject experts because they relied on the IARC report and that he should dissect and consider the “subset of opinions” contained within their reports.

One of the plaintiffs’ experts conducted her own independent analysis. UCLA epidemiologist Dr. Beate Ritz testified that she reviewed over a dozen cases and was able to conclude “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty” that glyphosate causes cancer in humans. Judge Chhabria called Dr. Ritz’s conclusion “dubious,” but questioned  whether it was “outside the range of a reasonable scientific conclusion that epidemiologists can draw?”

Attorney for Monsanto, Eric Lasker, argued that Dr. Ritz’s testimony should be rejected because her findings were based on “unadjusted odds ratios” and “confounded data.” Attorney for the plaintiffs, Aimee Wagstaff, said that their experts took confounding into consideration and that each expert considered both unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios.

Judge Chhabria concluded that epidemiology is “loosey-goosey” and a “highly subjective field.” However; Judge Chhabria did indicate that Dr. Ritz may be allowed to testify in front of a jury. He said, “Maybe Dr. Ritz, despite some of the problems with her testimony, is operating within the mainstream of the field. . . , Maybe it’s up to the jury to buy her presentation.”