Legal Updates - February 2009

Dr. Richard Ofshe testimony limited

In the case of, Contreras v. State, (Jan., 2009) the Court of Appeals of Texas ruled on the following - Appellant's first two issues involve the expert testimony of Dr. Richard Ofshe. In Point of Error One, Appellant challenges the trial court's ruling that this expert witness could not relate the specific facts of the case to his expertise and knowledge. In Point of Error Two, Appellant contends the trial court erred when it ruled Dr. Ofshe could not testify about ultimate issues to be determined by the jury.

The trial court ruled that:

"He can testify as to the general basis of interrogation methods. Obviously, we know they exist. We know they existed in this case. We know it exists for the Police Department. You-all tendered over those documents. But, Mr. Ponder, I will tell you: He will not testify as to the veracity of any statement. He will not testify as to the voluntariness of any statement, and he will also not testify as to any truth or false confession."

The Court of Appeals found that "We conclude that Dr. Ofshe's testimony was not beyond that of the average juror's knowledge and experience and that his testimony would not help the jury understand the evidence or determine a fact issue. The jury was equally competent to form an opinion about the ultimate fact issues, namely the voluntariness of Appellant's second statement. Because Dr. Ofshe's testimony impermissibly offered a direct opinion as to the truthfulness of Appellant's statement, we find no error in its exclusion. We overrule the first two points of error." Click here for the complete opinion.