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United States v. Schneider

September 21, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
KENNETH SCHNEIDER



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Juan R. Sanchez, J.

MEMORANDUM

Defendant Kenneth Schneider asks this Court to preclude the testimony of Dr. Sherri Edelman, a witness identified by the Government as an expert who will "testify generally regarding the psychological and emotional nature of the relationship between sexual abusers of children and their victims." Gov't's Letter to Def. of Jul. 23, 2010, 1. Because this Court finds Dr. Edelman's testimony is not reliable and would not assist the trier of fact in this case, this Court will grant Defendant's motion in limine and preclude the Government from calling Edelman as a witness during its case in chief.

FACTS

On January 14, 2010, Schneider was charged in a two-count indictment with (1) traveling in foreign commerce for the purpose of engaging in sex with a minor, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(b), and (2) transporting a person in foreign commerce with the intent that such person engage in criminal sexual conduct, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2421. Schneider's charges arise from his travel on August 22, 2001, when he flew from Philadelphia to Moscow, Russia, in the company of R.Z., a 15-year-old Russian boy with whom he is alleged to have engaged in a sexual relationship both before and after the date of travel.

Schneider's trial was originally scheduled for August 4, 2010. On July 23, 2010, the Government sent Schneider a three-page letter providing a written summary of the anticipated testimony of Dr. Edelman. In relevant part, the letter explained that Edelman had not examined R.Z. and had not prepared an expert report, but would "testify generally regarding the psychological and emotional nature of relationships between sexual abusers of children and their victims." Gov't's Letter to Def. of Jul. 23, 2010, 1. The Government stated Edelman would testify the "vast majority of victims of child sexual abuse do not disclose the abuse to anyone, disclose on a delayed basis (including years later), or attempt to disclose but are not believed, making them reluctant to disclose further." Id. The Government further stated Edelman would testify that it is "well-known in the field of child sexual abuse psychology that in [relationships between child sexual abusers and their victims] the abusers engage in 'grooming' activities" and that victims often have positive emotional feelings toward their abusers. Id. at 1-2. The Government maintained such evidence would assist the trier of fact in "understanding the behavior of the victim in this case. " Id.

At the Government's request, trial in this matter was continued to September 20, 2010. On September 12, 2010, Schneider filed the instant motion seeking to exclude Edelman's proposed testimony. At the Government's request, this Court held ahearing pursuant to Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993) on September 20, 2010, and continued the trial until September 21, 2010.

DISCUSSION

Schneider seeks to preclude introduction of Edelman's testimony, arguing it does not meet the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993), because she is not qualified and her testimony is not reliable or helpful to the jury.*fn1 The Government argues such testimony is admissible because Edelman is qualified by her clinical experience, her anticipated testimony is reliable, and her testimony fits this case because it will "explain the victim's conduct to the jury." Gov't's Letter of July 23, 2010, 1.

Federal Rule of Evidence 702 states:

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, 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 reliably to the facts of the case.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. This Rule has been distilled into "a trilogy of restrictions on expert testimony: qualification, reliability, and fit." Schneider ex. rel. Estate of Schneider v. Fried, 320 F.3d 396, 404 (3d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). This Rule "imposes a special obligation upon a trial judge to ensure that any and all [expert] testimony . . . is not only relevant, but reliable." Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147 (1999).

To offer expert testimony under Rule 702, Edelman must be qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education. Fed. R. Evid. 702. The basis of an expert witness's specialized knowledge "can be practical experience as well as academic training and credentials," and the Third Circuit has instructed courts to liberally apply the qualification requirement for expert testimony. Waldorf v. Shuta, 142 F.3d 601, 625 (3d Cir. 1998). "At a minimum, a proffered expert witness . . . must possess skill or knowledge greater than the average layman . . . ." Id. (quoting Aloe Coal Co. v. Clark Equip. Corp., 816 F.2d 110, 114 (3d Cir. 1987)).

Schneider argues Edelman is not qualified to render an expert opinion on any issue relevant to this case because she is not a licensed psychologist authorized under state law to diagnose disorders, she holds no faculty positions, and she has not published any books or contributed any articles to peer-reviewed journals. The Government argues Edelman's doctorate degree in clinical psychology is based on extensive clinical experience, during which she provided therapy to sexual abuse victims, and further argues her 13 years of clinical experience with victims of sexual assault makes her "amply qualified." Gov't's Resp. 6. The Government has not quantified Edelman's clinical experience beyond stating how long she has worked in a clinical setting. Edelman has not estimated how many patients she has worked with, how many of those patients were victims of child sexual abuse, or how many of those patients initially denied or delayed in reporting such abuse. Instead, she asserts such abuse is "rarely" reported right away, based on her anecdotal experience with clinical patients. Edelman has conducted no independent research, nor written any peer-reviewed articles. Moreover, her experience in the field of child sexual abusers and their victims is one-sided, as it is limited to therapeutic sessions with victims of sexual abuse.*fn2

While this Court is concerned about Edelman's qualifications to testify as to the emotional and psychological impact of sexual abuse on children, under the liberal qualification policy of this Circuit, Edelman is qualified to testify regarding child victims of sexual abuse if such testimony is reliable and fits the facts of the case. This Court has not been persuaded, however, that Edelman is qualified to offer testimony regarding the modus operandi, or "grooming" practices of child sexual abusers. Edelman does not treat or diagnose adult abusers of children, or assist in their categorization for federal or state-wide sex offender registries. Edelman stated her opinion on grooming is based on a number of articles she has read by two or three other experts, but such a passing familiarity with another expert's scholarship is insufficient.*fn3 At the Daubert hearing, she could not offer testimony about grooming with any level of specificity beyond the blanket statement that it is well known to researchers in the field of child sexual abuse that such grooming occurs. Therefore, this Court finds ...


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