Drug Trafficking Litigation: IT Expert Qualified to Conduct Forensic Exam of Confiscated Devices


IT ExpertCourt: United States District Court for the District of Kansas
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: United States v. Reulet
Citation: 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161540

Facts

The defendants were charged with trafficking conspiracy in controlled substances and controlled substance analog as well as mail fraud. One of them was charged with selling and trafficking illegal drugs, laundering money, and related crimes. The government retained multiple expert witnesses to support its case. The defendants filed this Daubert motion challenging the testimony of two information technology (IT) experts, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expert, two pharmaceutical representative experts, three analog drug experts, and a financial expert.

The IT Expert Witnesses

The government identified two IT expert witnesses it planned to present at the trial. The IT experts testified about their forensic examination of confiscated computers and phones, and about the recovery of numerous emails from computers and cell phone texts. Their opinions were derived from their review of the computers and phones confiscated and based on their schooling, training, and experience.

The defendants challenged the testimony made by both experts. The defendants did not object to the IT expert witnesses’ testimony, so long it was limited to the way computers and phones were analyzed in order to extract the information. However, the defendants argued that the government’s notice under Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure was inadequate if it considered opinion beyond that. The defendants further argued that schooling, training, and experience provide the basis for an expert’s qualification, but not for opinions.

Discussion

The court accepted the government’s argument that testimony from the IT experts would be limited to their forensic analysis of the seized cell phones and computers. Specifically, the testimony would cover how they examined the confiscated computers and extracted the contents. Thus, the defendants’ first argument was rejected as moot. The court also disagreed with the defendants’ argument that education, training, and experience were bases for expert qualification but not for an expert opinion. It was noted that the court had previously decided in United States v. Garza, United States v. Markum, and United States v. Jensen that education, training, and experience could supply sufficient reasons and bases for an expert opinion.

The court further noted that advisory committee note to the 2,000 amendments to Federal Rule of Evidence 702 says that “in certain fields, experience is the predominant, if not sole, basis for a great deal of reliable expert testimony” and explaining that a witness relying only on experience should “explain why that experience is a sufficient basis for the opinion”.

Held

The IT expert witnesses were held to be qualified enough to testify in this matter, and their testimony was deemed reliable and relevant. Thus, the defendants’ motion to exclude their testimony was denied.

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