Criminal Defense Attorney, Iris Eytan on Colorado Supreme Court Decisions to Tighten Police Testimony

Original Article published in The Denver Post | By KIRK MITCHELL |
February 7, 2017 at 11:49 am | UPDATED: February 7, 2017 at 4:43 pm

Rulings from the Colorado Supreme Court in unrelated cases this week could make it more difficult for police officers to testify about certain evidence in criminal trials.

The court ruled that trial witnesses, including police officers, who have interpreted blood evidence in thousands of criminal cases can’t testify as “lay” witnesses and must first be qualified as experts before they can testify. That’s a much higher standard than officers currently face.

The decision Monday in People versus Ramos helps determine who doesn’t qualify as a “lay” witness, or someone with an ordinary citizen’s knowledge and experiences. Judges do not have to qualify lay witnesses before they testify. Experts testify only after they have demonstrated they have relevant specialized experiences, knowledge or training.

Denver criminal and civil defense attorney Iris Eytan said she considers the Ramos decision a landmark case that could impede Colorado prosecutors from filing charges in some cases and could lead to fewer people being convicted of crimes they didn’t commit.

“It’s going to prohibit some prosecutions because they are not going to be able to qualify some witnesses,” she said.

Police officers are routinely allowed to testify as lay witnesses even though their expertise hasn’t been put to the test. Police officers are considered “super convincing” to juries, Eytan said. It could restrict testimony considered soft science, such as facial recognition testimony, she said.

“They are permitted to come in and make wild assumptions. They slip in opinions that are unrelated to their expertise,” Eytan said. “I think there is a lot of junk science out there.”

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