Harris County Challenges Its Own Expert Witness’ Credibility

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has decided to pursue charges against an expert it has used in multiple murder cases. A pathologist is a doctor who examines a dead body to determine cause and time of death among other things. If the State wishes to prove up that someone was murdered they rely on the truthful testimony of a pathologist to get that proof. If their pathologist has a history of falsifying government documents, lying to authorities, or just lying in general, then a jury is likely to disbelieve the pathologist and will be more likely to uphold the presumption of innocence.

Medical Examiner Luisa Florez has been accused of lying to get a $400,000.00 mortgage to buy a property that her husband, Jon Holverson, had an interest in. Jon Holverson, on the other hand, has been accused of fraudulently obtaining federal funds in the wake of Ike. Ms. Florez’s credibility comes into doubt when these facts are presented, because it tends to indicate that she will lie for pecuniary gain.

One of the last things a trial attorney wants is to have his or her expert witness be discredited on the stand for lying in an unrelated matter. Conversely, one of the greatest tools that a trial attorney has is the ability to cross examine the opposition’s witnesses, and when damning evidence comes out to discredit the opposition’s “expert” then the whole tenor of the trial may change in favor of the cross-examiner.

Generally, the rules of evidence do not allow for evidence of a witness’ character since it is probably unrelated to the testimony they intend to give at trial. However, under Texas Evidence Rule 608(a), evidence that a witness has a pattern of lying or fabricating testimony may be pertinent for a jury to determine that witness’ credibility or tendency to tell the truth. This is tempered by Rule 608(b), which states that specific instances where the witness lied can’t be brought up on cross examination unless there was a final conviction, which means that the evidence of the mortgage and federal fraud would probably not be allowed against Florez at trial under TRE 608.

Another route a cross-examiner may use to bypass the restrictions of Rule 608 is Rule 404(b). Rule 404(b) states in part that character evidence may be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident. Here, Ms. Florez’s and her husband’s charges indicate that they will commit fraud to obtain money, and by showing that she will lie on a legal document in order to obtain money a skilled cross-examiner may be able to prove that she had a motive to fabricate evidence at trial.

If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime involving the death of another person, then you need the advice of competent counsel to fight to preserve your legal rights. The law office of The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp will work aggressively to challenge the State’s evidence and ensure that all of your rights are preserved. Call today for a free consultation.