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Trump Expert Witness Barred from Testifying

Granite Law Group

In the Trump hush money trial being prosecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney, the defense team tried to call expert witness Bradley Smith. He is the former Federal Elections Commission (FEC) commissioner from 2000-2005. Mr. Smith was proffered to testify as an expert on the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). His purpose was to give some context to how about certain legal terms (such as “campaign contribution” and “for the purpose of influencing an election”) are defined.

Matthew Colangelo, head prosecutor for the Manhattan DA’s Office legal team, argued that Judge Merchan was going to provide the jurors with jury instructions before their deliberations. Thus, it was inappropriate for an expert witness to invade the judge’s authority to instruct the jurors on the law. Judge Juan Merchan sustained the prosecution’s objection to the expert testimony and Mr. Smith was not allowed to take the stand.

Jury Instructions and the Law:

While it is true, that legal definitions are within the scope of the judge’s exclusive authority, the intent behind the FECA language is very confusing to understand. For example, many Americans following the trial might be asking themselves – how far does the definition of “for the purposes of influencing an election” stretch? And, if you use your personal money in a way that indirectly assists a campaign, does this really count as a “campaign contribution?”

You might be interested to know that in white collar criminal trials, securities experts testify about insider trading, market manipulation, and securities valuation all the time. It’s common place. Why? Because these topics are so nuanced.

When it does come time for Judge Merchan to give jury instructions, he is going to read boilerplate legal definitions from the model rules (and now the FECA). This process will likely take in excess of one hour and the jury is going to be bored to tears. The jury will be left with the testimony of Michael Cohen, who himself pled guilty of FECA offenses. But does Michael Cohen’s decision to plea guilty to a FECA charge for his payoff to Stormy Daniels in exchange for a light sentence get imputed on Trump? Does the plea definitively prove that the Manhattan DA’s office has proven this case against Trump beyond a reasonable doubt?

Expert Witnesses:

In any trial, whether it is criminal or civil, witnesses are only allowed to testify about the facts – what they did, heard, or saw. Witnesses are not allowed to testify about opinions unless they are qualified as experts. To be qualified as an expert, the presiding judge must be satisfied that the expert has a high level of education, training, or experience to offer opinions within a particular field that is relevant to the case.

In a truck accident case, you might want to call an expert who’s an experienced accident reconstructionist. This would be someone who taken certification courses, typically through law enforcement organizations, on how to measure tire skid marks to calculate brake time and vehicle speed before the point of impact.

In a catastrophic injury case, you might want to call an expert who’s an experienced orthopedist. This would be someone who had acquired educational degrees within academia and who has fellowship training through hospital programs.

Experts can be very impactful on juries. But the weight of their testimony is the same for any other witness. A jury is supposed to decide if an expert is credible, is predisposed to a particular opinion, or is motivated by financial gain. For a case like this, out of all the salacious testimony from Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels that was heard, I think Bradely Smith would have been the most instructive. It is a shame that he was not permitted to offer his expertise.

Key Trump witness nixed after Merchan’s rulings reveals how he would have testified | Fox News

Trump’s Best Defense Has Nothing To Do With Bragg Or Merchan (

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