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United States v. Donahue

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 20, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JOSEPH P. DONAHUE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Presently before me is the Government's Motion in Limine to Exclude Defendant Joseph Donahue's ("Donahue") Proffered Expert Testimony. (Doc. 254.) Because the proposed expert testimony fails to meet the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993), the Government's motion will be granted.

I. Background

On March 4, 2010, Donahue was convicted after a jury trial in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania of multiple federal offenses. On December 2, 2010, Donahue was sentenced to 121 months imprisonment. He was scheduled to surrender at the Federal Correctional Institution, Fort Dix, New Jersey, to commence serving his sentence on January 4, 2011.

On January 4, 2011, Donahue failed to appear at the institution designated for the service of his sentence. The United States Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania, thereafter applied for, and obtained, a warrant for Donahue's arrest. Donahue was subsequently arrested by the United States Marshals Service in Las Cruces, New Mexico on January 20, 2011.

On July 24, 2012, the Grand Jury returned the Four-Count First Superseding Indictment against Donahue. Specifically, Donahue was charged with: (1) knowingly failing to surrender for service of a federal sentence pursuant to a court order in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3146(a)(2) and (b)(1)(A)(i) (Count One); (2) knowingly possessing, in and affecting commerce, a firearm (Glock, Model 27, .40 caliber semi-auto pistol, serial number GTB989) which had been shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2) (Count Two); (3) being a fugitive from justice and knowingly possessing, in and affecting commerce, a firearm (Glock, Model 27, .40 caliber semi-auto pistol, serial number GRB989) which had been shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(2) and 924(a)(2) (Count Three); and (4) knowingly possessing a stolen firearm (Glock, Model 27, .40 caliber semi-auto pistol, serial number GTB989) which had been shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce, knowing and having reasonable cause to believe the firearm was stolen in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(j) and 924(a)(2) (Count Four).

On November 14, 2014, the Government filed the instant motion to exclude Donahue from presenting the expert testimony of Dr. Dilwyn Symes ("Dr. Symes"). The Government contends that the proffered testimony of Dr. Symes that Donahue may have been suffering from Acute Stress Disorder in January 2011 will not assist the trier of fact because his opinion is speculative and is not formed with the level of confidence from which a medical practitioner would rely on in rendering a medical judgment. (Doc. 262, 4-7.) In contrast, Donahue, while acknowledging that Dr. Symes does not render an opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, maintains that Dr. Symes' testimony when considered with other evidence that will be presented at trial will assist the trier of fact. (Doc. 262, 1-4.) The Government's motion has been fully briefed and a Daubert hearing was held on the motion on April 6, 2014.

II. Discussion

Dr. Symes' expert testimony regarding whether Donahue suffered from Acute Stress Disorder ("ASD") during the time he failed to surrender for service of sentence will be excluded because it fails to satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993). Rule 702, consistent with Daubert, provides:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the ...

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