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The district court did not clarify the situation when instructing the jury, stating only: “You've heard the testimony of Kris Haglund from the Holland Police Department who testified both as a fact and as an opinion witness. Accordingly, even if Haglund's testimony did not exceed the scope of Rule 702, his overall presentation as a dual fact-expert witness without further demarcation or explanation to the jury was in error.4. Any error—either the admission of some expert testimony that exceeded the scope of Rule 702 or the confusing mixing of Haglund's expert and fact testimony—was harmless. Confrontation Clause Rios and Casillas also argue that Bevacqui and Haglund based portions of their expert testimony on hearsay in violation of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment, which provides that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right ․ to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” U. Thus, the Confrontation Clause is concerned with the use of experts to transmit particular testimonial statements, or their specific substance, to the jury. The defendants are more specific with regard to Detective Haglund, Rios Appellant Br. at 27, and the trial record makes clear that Haglund's expert opinion was influenced by hearsay in three ways: First, in discussing his history of investigating gangs in Holland, Detective Haglund testified that he “spoke to a lot of informants in an attempt to kind of understand what was going on in our community at the time,” and admitted to having “listen[ed] to jail conversations,” “read jail letters,” and “[i]nterview[ed] people.” R. He was asked whether he had interviewed someone who went through the process and then explained: “He was taken to a different location from where they were at originally and was beaten by several Latin Kings throughout the face, the body, and suffered injuries.” R. This was problematic because “[s]eamlessly switching back-and-forth between expert and fact testimony does little to stem the risks associated with dual-role witnesses.” York, 572 F.3d at 426. Nor did anyone explain that the jury could consider Haglund's status as a key fact witness for the government in evaluating the credibility of his expert testimony. Palacios, 677 F.3d 234, 243 (4th Cir.) (gang expert's testimony did not violate Crawford, even though the expert's views were based in part on discussions with other officers and interviews with gang members and victims, because the expert's testimony “did not specifically reference any of these interviews”), cert. 545 F.3d at 198; see also Garcia, 793 F.3d at 1213 (“An important consideration in distinguishing proper testimony from parroting is the generality or specificity of the expert testimony.”). As discussed, however, merely basing an expert opinion on testimonial statements is not problematic. The sole testimony cited by the defendants that may have done so was Detective Haglund's relaying of the “beating-out process” based upon interviewing Latin Kings about it. This testimony violated the Confrontation Clause, but the violation was harmless because Mario Herrera testified about the severity of the same process. Rios does not point to a motion or objection made before the district court to exclude the entirety of Vargas's testimony, so we may review only for plain error. This straightforward theory of gang-expert testimony does not always play out in practice. Rather, he opined about the nationwide Latin Kings, and the government sought to make the link to the Holland Latin Kings through other testimony. Haglund Improperly Mixed Fact and Expert Testimony, and May Have Testified Outside the Scope of Rule 702. Rios and Casillas moved pretrial to exclude the tattoo evidence. 2014) (noting that gang expertise “usually arises from the officer's significant experience investigating a particular gang” and concluding that a proffered expert would be unreliable because the expert had not been involved with the specific gang at issue, or even the geographic region). Thus, he would not have been a reliable expert on the Holland Latin Kings. But Bevacqui did not purport to give opinion testimony about the Holland Latin Kings.
For example, an FBI Agent in a case about organized crime may properly give expert testimony “on the structure, the organization, [and] the rules” of the organized-crime entity. The officer expert transforms into the hub of the case, displacing the jury by connecting and combining all other testimony and physical evidence into a coherent, discernible, internally consistent picture of the defendant's guilt. A related issue arises when the law-enforcement expert is also a fact witness in the case. This confusion regarding the capacity in which Haglund was testifying is independently problematic. The Clause is in some tension with Federal Rule of Evidence 703, which permits an expert witness to base an opinion on inadmissible evidence “[i]f experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on those kinds of facts or data in forming an opinion on the subject.”This conflict is not insurmountable. Vargas painted a picture of the operations of the national Latin Kings, its links to local chapters, and the various symbols, methods, and organizational details of the operation, which other witnesses then linked to the Holland Latin Kings. 480 (Fourth Superseding Indictment at 5) (Page ID #2142). 2 at 331:8–18, 350:1–3, 354:1–358:3, 3–3, 4–4) (Page ID #14475, 14494–96, 14498–14504, 14599–600); R.
§ 1961 et seq., which alleged that the Holland Latin Kings was a racketeering enterprise that “was and is overseen by, has always had connections to, and received directions from, the Chicago Heights, Illinois (21st and Wenworth) Latin Kings.” R. Count Fourteen—with which Rios and Casillas were charged—alleged a conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine between 20. In summary, three initial witnesses painted a picture of the national Latin Kings organization and how the Holland Latin Kings fit into its structure and practices. The jury acquitted Rios of Count Fifteen, the marijuana-distribution conspiracy, as well as the special sentencing allegations regarding assault with the intent to commit murder. 1396 (Rios Judgment at 2) (Page ID #20861), and Casillas was sentenced to concurrent terms of 200 months on Count One and 360 months on Count Fourteen, with 148 months of credit “for gang-related discharged terms of imprisonment,” R. On appeal, they each raise issue with many aspects of the trial, as well as the sentences they received. Appropriateness of Expert Testimony The government proposed pretrial that it would utilize two expert witnesses. at 3) (Page ID #6840), and Detective Kristopher Haglund—who had also served as a lead investigator in this case—would provide expert testimony regarding “the unique attributes of the Holland chapter of the Latin Kings” and “as to who, in his opinion, is a member of the Holland Latin Kings,” R. Before analyzing these interrelated arguments, we set forth the law regarding the use of expert witnesses on gangs and discuss the many pitfalls that attend to the use of such witnesses.1. Like all experts, the role of gang-expert witnesses is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which 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 facts of the case. 579 (1993), is followed “to ensure the reliability and relevancy of expert testimony,” Kumho Tire Co.
Count Fifteen—with which Rios was charged, but Casillas was not—alleged a conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute one-hundred kilograms or more of marijuana between 20. The evidence presented was extensive, and we review many facets of it in detail in connection with our assessment of the various legal arguments presented by Rios and Casillas. Rios was later sentenced to concurrent terms of 240 months on Count One and 300 months on Count Fourteen, with 61 months of credit “for gang-related discharged terms of imprisonment,” R. The defendants sought to exclude both witnesses, arguing that Bevacqui could not “reliably apply his principles and methods to the facts of this case,” R. Rios also contests Haglund's testimony, arguing that it served only to impart “his opinion that the Defendants who went to trial were guilty” and that he “mixed fact and expert testimony together.” Rios Appellant Br. Relatedly, Rios and Casillas rely extensively on a portion of the Second Circuit's decision in United States v. 2008), that discussed the proper scope of gang-expert testimony under Rule 702.
OPINIONAntonio Rios and David Casillas were charged along with twenty-nine co-defendants in a sprawling racketeering indictment charging that they were involved in the criminal activities of the Holland, Michigan chapter of the organization known as the Latin Kings. 14-1360, 14-1600, 14-1717, 14-1804, 14-1839, 14-1986, 14-2094, 14-2129, 14-2249, 2016 WL 2755180, ___ F. Count One alleged the commission of 129 overt acts in furtherance of the twenty-year-long racketeering conspiracy, and also contained eleven special sentencing allegations, charging various defendants with conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine between 19, and the commission of ten assaults with the intent to commit murder. On June 13, 2014, the jury found Rios and Casillas guilty of Count One, the RICO conspiracy, and Count Fourteen, the cocaine conspiracy.
Kavalhuna, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY' S OFFICE, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellee. The case against Rios and Casillas focused on a racketeering-conspiracy charge (“Count One”) under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U. 480 (Fourth Superseding Indictment at 5) (Page ID #2142). Rios and Casillas were each charged in Count One and its special sentencing allegation regarding the distribution of cocaine, and Rios was additionally charged with three of the assaults with the intent to commit murder. Much of the rest of the trial consisted of testimony, largely from cooperating co-defendants, corroborating aspects of the testimony regarding the Holland Latin Kings, and setting forth details about a number of specific criminal acts that the government claimed had been committed in furtherance of the racketeering conspiracy. The jury also found Rios and Casillas responsible for the Count One special sentencing allegation related to the distribution of five kilograms or more of cocaine between 19. For the reasons that follow, we AFFIRM Rios's conviction and sentence, and AFFIRM Casillas's conviction and sentence. Keith Bevacqui would serve as an expert “regarding the Latin Kings national organization,” R. Although Rule 702 commonly applies to scientific expert testimony, it applies equally to witnesses whose expertise stems from other types of specialized knowledge, granting the district court “considerable leeway in deciding in a particular case how to go about determining whether particular expert testimony is reliable,” provided that the gatekeeping mandate of Daubert v.
2009) (“the evidence of Latin King handshakes, symbols, colors, and tattoos tended to establish gang membership or affiliation, and it was proper for the government to prove gang membership as part of the conspiracy”), cert.