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Murphy v. The City of Tulsa

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

January 18, 2018




         This matter comes before the court on the First Daubert Motion [Doc. #184');">184], and the Third Daubert Motion [Doc. #217] of plaintiff Michelle Dawn Murphy. Both motions relate to the testimony and opinions of the defendant City of Tulsa's expert, John “Jack” Ryan. For the reasons set forth below, the First Daubert Motion is granted in part and denied in part, and the Third Daubert Motion is denied.

         I. Background

         In her First Amended Complaint, Ms. Murphy alleges she was wrongfully convicted for the murder of her infant son, Travis Wood. Her conviction was vacated by an agreed order entered in state district court in 2014. She served twenty years of a sentence of life without parole.

         Ms. Murphy now asserts a claim for relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of her right to a fair trial under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment on seven (7) enumerated grounds, including deficiencies in the Tulsa Police Department's (“TPD”) training, supervision, and policies and procedures, and of her right not to incriminate herself under the Fifth Amendment.

         The City of Tulsa retained John J. Ryan as an expert witness to testify regarding the appropriateness of TPD's investigation of the murder of Travis Wood; TPD's policies, procedures and practices; and TPD's training and supervision. In her First Daubert Motion, Ms. Murphy moves to exclude Mr. Ryan's testimony, statements, and opinions regarding two distinct topics: (1) the training of TPD officers, and (2) the questioning of Ms. Murphy by detective Mike Cook. [Doc. #184');">184]. In her Third Daubert Motion, Ms. Murphy seeks to exclude the entirety of Mr. Ryan's report and to preclude Mr. Ryan from testifying during the trial of this matter on the basis that Mr. Ryan's report is unreliable because it is not based on sufficient facts and data. [Doc. #217]. The court separately considers below Ms. Murphy's First Daubert Motion and Third Daubert Motion.

         II. Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 702,

[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.

Rule 702 imposes on the trial court an important gate-keeping obligation, “to ‘ensure that any and all [expert] testimony . . . is not only relevant, but reliable.” Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147 (1999) (quoting Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 578, 590 (1993)). Thus, “the trial judge must determine whether the testimony has ‘a reliable basis in the knowledge and experience of [the relevant] discipline.'” Kumho Tire Co., Ltd., 526 U.S. at 149 (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592).

         “To determine whether an expert's opinion is admissible, the district court must undertake a two-step analysis.” Mathis v. Huff & Puff Trucking, Inc., 787 F.3d 1297, 1307 (10th Cir. 2015). “First, the court must determine whether the expert is ‘qualified' by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education' to render an opinion.” Id. (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 702). “Second, ‘the court must determine whether the expert's opinion is reliable by assessing the underlying reasoning and methodology, as set forth in Daubert.'” Id.

         III. Analysis

         A. Ryan's Qualifications

         Ms. Murphy does not challenge whether Mr. Ryan is qualified by “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.” See generally [Doc. ##184');">184, 217, 252, and 280]. Further, based on the court's review of the materials before it-specifically Mr. Ryan's curriculum vitae and report-the court is persuaded that Mr. Ryan is qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training and education to provide testimony regarding TPD's training, policies and procedures. See [Doc. #184');">184, p. 54');">p. 54 (exhibit 26)]. With regard to education, Mr. Ryan received a bachelor of science in administration of justice, a master of science in administration of justice, and a juris doctorate degree. [Id. at 99]. In addition to his formal education, Mr. Ryan received specialized law enforcement training, including training in law enforcement instructor development from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, high performance police management from the Police Management Association, and advanced tactical management from Prince William County Criminal Justice Academy. [Id. at p. 103]. As to practical experience, Mr. Ryan served as an active duty police officer in the Providence Police Department for twenty (20) years and obtained the rank of captain. [Id. at p. 99] During his later years with the Providence Police Department, Mr. Ryan served as the Director of Administration, which included supervision of the department's training division. [Id.]. Mr. Ryan also previously served as an adjunct faculty member in the Administration of Justice Graduate Program at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island, and taught graduate courses on subjects such as constitutional law issues in law enforcement, police civil liability, managing police organizations, contemporary issues in the administration of justice, juvenile justice, mental health law, and business crime. [Id.]. Since retiring as an active duty police officer, Mr. Ryan has been involved in auditing law enforcement operations throughout the United States, and has assisted departments throughout the nation in developing policy and training. [Doc. #184');">184, p. 64, ¶ 47]. Mr. Ryan has also authored numerous texts and articles related to law enforcement, including authoring the Law and Best Practices for Successful Police Operations, 12 High Risk Critical Tasks. [Doc. #184');">184, p. 54');">p. 54]. Based on Mr. Ryan's education, training, experience, and knowledge, the court is persuaded that Mr. Ryan is qualified to render the opinions for which he was retained by the City of Tulsa.

         B. First Daubert Motion - Testimony, Statements, or Opinions ...

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