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Expert Testimony; Impeachment – Prior Convictions

State v. Olu A. Rhodes, 2009AP25-CR, District 1, 11/22/11

court of appeals decision (not recommended for publication), on remand from, 2011 WI 73; for Rhodes: John J. Grau; case activity

Expert witness qualification rests in the sound discretion of the trial court; here, it was well within that discretion to allow the following testimony:

¶4        Marchant, who described herself as a “criminal intelligence analyst” working for the Department of Justice, testified that, using a computer program, she mapped the coordinates supplied by the cell-phone company for their various towers, and translated those coordinates into street intersections.  She testified that she was a high-school graduate and had undergone training to learn how to map the coordinates.  She also told the jury that she “received telephone analysis training, paneling training which involves cell phone, cell towers and understanding that information.”  As with the cell-phone company employee, she acknowledged that a cell phone will “grab the closest tower with the strongest reception.”  …

(Particulars recited by court, ¶7. It follows that the prosecutor properly argued to the jury that phone records “put Olu Rhodes at the scene of the shooting at the time of the shooting,” ¶¶8-10.)

The trial court didn’t erroneously exercise discretion in allowing the victim to be impeached with two prior convictions but disallowing a third (which was for driving without a license):

¶12     … “Whether to allow prior-conviction evidence for impeachment purposes under § 906.09, Stats., is within the discretion of the trial court.”  State v. Kruzycki, 192 Wis. 2d 509, 525, 531 N.W.2d 429, 435 (Ct. App. 1995).  Wisconsin does not let the jury know the nature of the crimes.  State v. Rutchik, 116 Wis. 2d 61, 76, 341 N.W.2d 639, 646 (1984).

¶13      In denying Rhodes’s request that the jury be told that the surviving victim had three rather than two convictions, the trial court opined:  “I think that an operating without a license is not such a crime that should be, even under the Wisconsin rules, considered.”  Significantly, Saleem’s lawyer agreed with the trial court.  Telling the jury that the surviving victim had three rather than two prior convictions without also telling them that one of the convictions was for a relatively minor offense, would have been misleading.  The trial court did not erroneously exercise its discretion in denying Rhodes’s request.

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