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United States v. Williams

October 19, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TERRANCE WILLIAMS AND ERIC HAYES, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge United States District Court

(Chief Judge Kane)

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is a motion to exclude the expert testimony of Dr. Sharon W. Cooper, a witness offered by the Government. The motion has been briefed, and is ripe for disposition. Because of the limited availability of the Government's proffered expert, the Court heard testimony and argument and ruled on the motions during a recess of the trial. This order memorializes the Court's ruling in trial and sets forth the background and basis for the ruling. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. INTRODUCTION

On December 8, 2005, Defendants Terrance Williams and Eric Hayes and fourteen other individuals were named in a thirty-two count indictment alleging a multi-year, nationwide conspiracy to engage in the interstate sex trafficking of women, including juveniles. The indictment also separately charged Defendants with other related crimes.*fn1 As part of its case-in- chief, the Government proposes to call Dr. Sharon W. Cooper as an expert witness to offer opinion testimony in three general areas: (1) the societal and criminal justice implications of prostitution and the sexual exploitation of women; (2) the medical and mental-health aspects of prostitution, including general testimony on victim risk and vulnerability factors and on common methods of grooming and deterrents to escape; (3) and the medical and mental-health impact that life as a prostitute had on certain women involved in this case. (Doc. No. 983; see also Doc. Nos. 949, 949-3.)

Defendant Hayes filed a motion in limine to exclude Dr. Cooper's expert testimony (Doc. No. 983), and Defendant Williams moved to join the motion on October 19, 2007, during the course of trial. Defendants contend that Dr. Cooper's testimony should be excluded because her expert opinion violates Rules 403 and 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, as it is irrelevant, unduly prejudicial, and not of assistance to the trier of fact. Furthermore, Defendants seek exclusion on the grounds that the Government's notice of intent to call an expert violated paragraphs 4(B) and 7 of the Court's scheduling order (Doc. No. 135), as well as Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(G) and (c).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Testimony About the Societal and Criminal Justice Implications of Prostitution

As an initial matter, the Court finds that the first category of evidence that the Government intends to offer through Dr. Cooper -- that is, evidence about the societal and criminal justice implications of prostitution -- is inadmissible as a matter of law.

Dr. Cooper's proffered testimony includes, among other things, a discussion of the costs of commercial sexual exploitation to society. For example, the Government offers Dr. Cooper to speak of the "social and criminal justice impact of prostitution," and as examples of this impact, she lists individuals with "multiple arrests, homelessness, [the] transient lifestyle associated with trafficking, poverty, [the] lack of education and a sense of hopelessness for independence without support of an offender." (Doc. No. 949-3.) In her report to the Government, Dr. Cooper also mentions the societal concern that women who are trafficked frequently generally receive inadequate health care, (Doc. No. 1028, at 3) (discussing the lack of access to breast cancer screening, cervical cancer screening, and colon cancer screening), and as a consequence are at higher risk for certain medical conditions. (Id.; see also Doc. No. 949-3, at 1-2.) By way of further example of this type of broad testimony, during the Daubert hearing conducted by the Court and discussed in greater detail below, Dr. Cooper also addressed concerns regarding the vast number of children believed to be prostituted in the United States and the "pimps and hos" culture that has contributed to the normalization of this type of sexual exploitation.

The Court finds that testimony of this type is not relevant under Rule 401 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which defines relevant evidence as "evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Fed. R. Evid. 401. Discussion of the societal and criminal justice implications of prostitution is not probative of whether Defendants Williams and Hayes engaged in a criminal conspiracy to traffic women or committed the other sex trafficking offenses with which they are charged. While such testimony is well suited for congressional hearings on appropriate penalties, it would not aid a juror in assessing whether a crime was committed. Moreover, even if testimony of this type were relevant to the case now before the Court, the danger of unfair prejudice would far outweigh its probative value. Fed. R. Evid. 403 ("Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence."). Accordingly, the Government may not, through Dr. Cooper or otherwise, introduce testimony on the far-reaching social and criminal justice implications that commercial sexual exploitation has on our society.

B. Dr. Cooper's Expert Testimony About the Medical and Mental-Health Aspects of Prostitution, Both Generally And Specifically With Respect to Women Involved in this Case

The Government also proposes to have Dr. Cooper offer expert opinion testimony in two other areas, stated in general terms as follows: (1) the medical and mental-health aspects of commercial sexual exploitation of women and juveniles, including general testimony about victim risk and vulnerability factors and about the effects of common methods of grooming and deterrents to escape; and (2) the specific risk factors, medical conditions, and mental-health issues, if any, that ...


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