District Court properly handles expert testimony by non-expert witnesses

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Although neither witness called to testify in a criminal trial was an expert, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the District Court did not err by barring the testimony of the defense witness while allowing the statements of the government witness.

The 7th Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence of Randall Causey in United States of American v. Randall B. Causey, 13-1321.

Causey was convicted of one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1349 and eight counts of aiding and abetting the commission of, and committing the offenses of, wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343. He was sentenced to 108 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to defraud borrowers and lenders in a real estate scheme in Gary during the housing boom years of 2005 and 2006.

As the only defendant to not plead guilty, Causey had a five-day trial that took place in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division.

On appeal, Causey raised five issues, two of which asserted the District Court erred in its rulings on expert testimony.

During his trial, Causey called Douglas Kvachkoff, the owner of Indiana Title Network Co. Kvachkoff started by testifying about the contents of a closing folder he had, but when defense counsel began asking questions about how someone in the real estate industry would procure closing numbers, the District Court barred the responses as improper expert testimony.

The 7th Circuit agreed with the District Court. It found that the defense’s questions about the closing numbers required a specialized knowledge of the industry. Since Causey did not file the necessary Rule 16 disclosure, the 7th Circuit held that the District Court was within its discretion to exclude the expert testimony.

Also at trial, one of Causey’s co-conspirators, Sheila Chandler, was called as a witness for the government. Chandler testified about her role in the scheme and, at one point, said the Gary housing market was inflated by 400 percent.

Causey argued on appeal that Chandler was not qualified to give expert testimony and her 400 percent comment was beyond the scope of the government’s pretrial Rule 16 disclosure.

The 7th Circuit held that even if Chandler’s testimony exceeded the scope of the government’s disclosure, the error was harmless. Her statements were of little value to the government’s case and the defense counsel’s cross examination mitigated any potential harm by pointing out Chandler was not an appraiser.   



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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.