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JACKIE LACEY
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
CRAIG W. HUM
DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
MAJOR CRIMES DIVISION
210 WEST TEMPLE STREET #17-1140
LOS ANGELES, CA 90012
(213) 974-3800

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SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

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FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES

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CASE NO.: BA255206

PEOPLE’S  MOTION  TO EXCLUDE
TESTIMONY OF CERTAIN DEFENSE
WITNESSES; POINTS AND
AUTHORITIES

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)
PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, )
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Plaintiff,
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vs.
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CAMERON JOHN BROWN,
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Defendant.
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DATE: MARCH 18, 2015
TIME: 8:30 AM
DEPT: 107

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TO THE HONORABLE GEORGE G. LOMELI, JUDGE OF THE ABOVE-ENTITLED

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COURT, DEFENDANT CAMERON JOHN BROWN AND ATTORNEY OF RECORD ARON

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LAUB:

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that on March 18, 2015, or as soon thereafter as this motion

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may be heard, THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA will move this honorable

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court to exclude the testimony of defense witnesses Dr. Joel Burdick, Dr. Bruce Beckwith, Dr.

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Nadim Karim, and Steve Schliebe. This motion will be based upon the attached Points and

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Authorities, and any other files, documents or other materials related to this case, as well as any

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argument presented at the hearing on this motion.

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MOTION TO EXCLUDE TESTIMONY OF DEFENSE WITNESSES

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MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES

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I.
Relevant Factual Summary

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On March 12, 2015, the defense provided the People with a list of potential witnesses.

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Included on this list were potential witnesses Dr. Joel Burdick, Dr. Bruce Beckwith, Dr. Nadim

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Karim, and Steve Schliebe. Dr. Burdick and Steve Schliebe testified at the first trial in this case.

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Each of these four witnesses testified at the retrial in this case. The People object to the

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testimony of each of these witnesses under Evidence Code §350 and §352. A transcript of the

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prior testimony of Dr. Burdick at the first trial is attached as Attachment 1. A transcript of the

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prior testimony of Dr. Burdick at the retrial is attached as Attachment 2. A transcript of the prior

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testimony of Dr. Beckwith is attached as Attachment 3. A transcript of the prior testimony of

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Dr. Karim is attached as Attachment 4. A transcript of the testimony of Steve Schliebe at the

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first trial is attached as Attachment 5. A transcript of the testimony of Steve Schliebe at the

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retrial is attached as Attachment 6.

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II.
The Testimony of Each of These
Witnesses is Irrelevant

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Pursuant to Evidence  Code  §350,  “No  evidence  is  admissible  except  relevant  evidence.”      

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Evidence  Code  §210  defines  relevant  evidence  as  “evidence,  including  evidence  relevant  to  the  

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credibility of a witness or hearsay declarant, having any tendency in reason to prove or disprove

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any  disputed  fact  that  is  of  consequence  to  the  determination  of  the  action.”    The  People  submit  

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that the testimony of the cited potential defense witnesses is irrelevant as the testimony does not

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have  “any  tendency  in  reason  to  prove  or  disprove  any  disputed fact that is of consequence to the

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determination  of  the  action.”  

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MOTION TO EXCLUDE TESTIMONY OF DEFENSE WITNESSES

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A. Testimony of Dr. Joel Burdick
At both prior trials, Dr. Joel Burdick, a professor of bioengineering at the California

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Institute of Technology, testified that he had received an email in January 2001 from one of the

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investigators in the case, Los  Angeles  Sheriff’s  Department  (LASD) Detective Danny Smith.

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Detective Smith essentially asked Dr. Burdick if he could assist in the investigation as Dr.

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Burdick had assisted another LASD investigator in a case involving an alleged fall from great

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height. Dr. Burdick replied that he might be able to assist and requested additional information.

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There was no further contact between Detective Smith and Dr. Burdick.

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The People submit that  this  testimony  is  completely  irrelevant  to  any  “disputed  fact  that  
is  of  consequence  to  the  determination  of  the  action.”    Nothing  in  this  email  exchange  sheds  any  

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light on any issue in the case. This testimony should be excluded.
B. Testimony of Dr. Bruce Beckwith

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Evidence  Code  §801  states:    “If a witness is testifying as an expert, his testimony in

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the form of an opinion is limited to such an opinion as is:

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(a) Related to a subject that is sufficiently beyond common experience that the

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opinion of an expert would assist the trier of fact; and

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(b) Based on matter (including his special knowledge, skill, experience, training, and

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education) perceived by or personally known to the witness or made known to him at

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or before the hearing, whether or not admissible, that is of a type that reasonably may

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be relied upon by an expert in forming an opinion upon the subject to which his

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testimony relates, unless an expert is precluded by law from using such matter as a

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basis for his opinion.”

In the second trial, Dr. Bruce Beckwith, a retired pediatric pathologist and expert in

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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, developmental abnormalities in children, and renal tumors in

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children, testified that in April 2006, he was contacted by LASD Detective Jeff Leslie. Detective

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MOTION TO EXCLUDE TESTIMONY OF DEFENSE WITNESSES

Leslie met with Dr. Beckwith, provided him with various reports related to this case, and asked

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Dr. Beckwith for his opinion regarding the manner of death (homicide versus accident) of victim

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Lauren Key. Dr. Beckwith stated that he could not provide a definitive answer to that question

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and that, in his opinion, Lauren could have hit the cliff once or multiple times and that her death

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could have been caused by a slip or by being thrown from the cliff. Dr. Beckwith further

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informed Detective Leslie that he did not want to testify for either the defense or the prosecution.

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Initially, this opinion might appear relevant as it contradicts the expert opinions of Dr.

Ogbonna Chinwah, the Deputy Medical Examiner in this case, as well as Dr. Wilson Hayes, the

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biomechanics expert in this case. Upon closer examination, however, the opinion of Dr.

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Beckwith is irrelevant because  he  does  not  possess  the  requisite  “special knowledge, skill,

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experience,  training,  and  education”  to  offer  this  expert  opinion.

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The opinion of Dr. Beckwith is irrelevant because he is not, by his own admission,
qualified to offer such an opinion. Dr. Beckwith testified on direct examination by the defense:

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“I  was unable to get to a comfort zone that I felt would provide me with the ability to give

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legitimate  testimony  in  this  case.”    [Reporter’s  Transcript  of  Retrial,  hereinafter  RT2,  8168:4-6.]

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Dr. Beckwith further testified on direct examination: “[The  question]  fell  into  an  area  of  

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knowledge that  I  don’t  consider  a  strong  point  in  my  own  experience. And there was nothing in

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my  knowledge  or  experience  that  allowed  me  to  feel  able  to  be  a  reliable  witness  for  the  truth.”    

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[RT2, 8170:1-5.] He also  stated:    “But  the  nature  of  the  blunt  force  trauma  involving  a  fall  from  

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a considerable height onto  a  surface  of  unknown  detailed  structure  didn’t  fall  within  anything  

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that  I’d  experience  in  all  those  six  thousand plus autopsies.    And  I  just  wasn’t  comfortable  

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swimming  in  those  waters.”    [RT2, 8170:19-24.]

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Dr. Beckwith further testified on direct examination that he had informed Detective

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Leslie in 2006 that he did not feel comfortable testifying on this issue for either side. In fact, Dr.

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Beckwith was only persuaded to testify for the defense in the retrial because the defense misled

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MOTION TO EXCLUDE TESTIMONY OF DEFENSE WITNESSES

Dr. Beckwith and assured him he was only being called to testify about his prior contact with

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Detective Leslie and not to testify about the case itself. [RT2, 8172:10-17.] Once on the witness

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stand, Dr. Beckwith was questioned about the case itself in direct contradiction of the defense

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assurances.

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Dr. Beckwith testified on cross-examination  by  the  People  as  follows:    “[Question:] And

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I think that what you told us this morning essentially was after you reviewed the materials and

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you spoke with Detective Leslie, you essentially told him what you told us here this morning in

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court  that  you  didn’t  feel  comfortable  offering  an  opinion  because  this  wasn’t  your  particular  

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area of expertise, correct? [Answer:] Right . . . Correct.”    [RT2,  8184:13-25.]

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The testimony of Dr. Beckwith, by his own admission, is irrelevant as he is not qualified

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to offer an expert opinion on this topic. As Dr. Beckwith himself states under oath, he does not

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believe  he  has  “the  ability  to  give  legitimate  testimony  in  this  case;;”  he  “wasn’t  comfortable

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swimming  in  those  waters;;”  he  “didn’t  feel  comfortable  offering  an  opinion  because  this  wasn’t  

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[his]  particular  area  of  expertise;;”  and  that “there was nothing in my knowledge or experience

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that allowed me to feel able to be a reliable witness for the truth.”    The purpose of a jury trial is

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to show the jury the truth. This testimony should be excluded as irrelevant and an improper

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expert opinion.

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C. Testimony of Dr. Nadim Karim

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In the second trial, Dr. Nadim Karim, a clinical and forensic psychologist, testified

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for  the  defense  that  “different  people  react  differently”  with  regard  to  a  traumatic  event. [RT2,

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8833:7-10.] Dr. Karim also testified that, in his opinion, and without having had any contact

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with the defendant, the defendant exhibited  “clear  textbook  symptoms  of  disassociation.”    [RT2,  

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8834:22-25.] The People submit that the testimony of Dr. Karim is irrelevant because Dr. Karim

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is not qualified to offer such an opinion and has no basis on which to offer such an opinion.

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MOTION TO EXCLUDE TESTIMONY OF DEFENSE WITNESSES

Dr. Karim testified that his private practice is “primarily  focused  on  trauma  and  post-

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traumatic  stress  disorder.”    [RT2,  8774:26-27.] He  further  testified  that  he  tries  “to  help  people  

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process  their  feelings  through  their  recovery  process,”  and  that  part  of  his  practice  “is  to  do  

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assessment and testing . . . pre-employment psychological testing and assessment for the

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Riverside County  Sheriff’s  Department.” [RT2, 8775:12-23.] He also testified that he had a

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doctorate  in  forensic  psychology,  and  that  “a  forensic  psychologist would be involved in doing

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assessment and testing. They would be involved in doing therapy on occasion or when

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requested, and trying to deal with assisting individuals who potentially may have been victims,

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but also looking at the other side of the coin and doing evaluations on offenders as well from a

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psychological  perspective.”    [RT2,  8777:5-11.] He testified that his research focused on the

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traumatic effect of incarceration. [RT2, 8779:1-8780:25.] Finally, he testified that, in his private

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practice,  “approximately  80  percent  of  the  time  I  do  psychological  testing  and  assessment.    The  

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other  20  percent,  I  would  do  therapy.”    [RT2, 8788:3-5.]

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On cross-examination, Dr. Karim admitted that he had not done any testing on the

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defendant and  in  fact  “did not have any conversations with the defendant in which [he was]

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trying to do an evaluation or assessment of any condition.” [RT2, 8814:25-27; 8831:17-20.]

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Interestingly, although Dr. Karim testified that his primary area of focus was post-traumatic

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stress disorder, he was not alleging that the defendant suffered from post-traumatic stress

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syndrome. [RT2, 8843:3-5.]

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In summary, the opinion of Dr. Karim that, from the material he had read, the defendant

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was  exhibiting  “clear  textbook  symptoms  of  disassociation”  on  the  night  of  the  murder  is  

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irrelevant because Dr. Karim does not have the proper expertise needed to form such an opinion.

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Nothing in the background, training, education, or experience of Dr. Karim, as outlined at the

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prior proceeding and his curriculum vitae, evidences the necessary expertise for offering such an

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MOTION TO EXCLUDE TESTIMONY OF DEFENSE WITNESSES

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opinion. The People further incorporate all of the arguments made with respect to Dr.

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Beckwith’s  testimony  in  their  objection  to  the  testimony  of  Dr.  Karim.    
D. Testimony of Steve Schliebe
Steve  Schliebe  is  a  criminalist  with  the  Los  Angeles  County  Sheriff’s  Department

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assigned to the trace evidence section. One of his duties is to examine photos and casts of

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impressions in an attempt to make a comparison of an impression to an exemplar.

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Mr. Schliebe testified in both prior trials that he was asked by Detective Leslie, one of the
investigating officers in the case, to examine photos and casts of footprints made at the murder

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scene in an attempt to determine if they were of any evidentiary value. Mr. Schliebe further

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testified that he examined photographs of the impressions and could not determine if they were

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footprints or if they had any comparison value. He asked Detective Leslie to provide him with

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the cast impressions but was not provided with those cast impression. He thus could not offer an

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opinion as to whether or not the impressions were footprints or had any evidentiary value.

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Deputy Dale Falicon, an analyst whose duties included the collection and documentation
of evidence at crime scenes, testified that he examined the impressions at the crime scene and

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determined that they appeared to be adult-sized footprints. He further testified that he

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documented the impressions with photographs and casted the impressions.
The testimony of Steve Schliebe is irrelevant. Mr. Schliebe can testify that, based on

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photographs, he does not know if the impressions at the scene were in fact footprint impressions.

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This testimony adds nothing to the case and  does  not  have  “any  tendency in reason to prove or

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disprove  any  disputed  fact  that  is  of  consequence  to  the  determination  of  the  action.”    

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III.
The Limited Probative Value, If Any, of the Proffered Testimony
Is Outweighed by the Prejudicial Effect

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Under Evidence Code §352, the court  has  the  discretion  to  exclude  evidence  “if  its  

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probative value is substantially outweighed by the probability that its admission will (a)

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MOTION TO EXCLUDE TESTIMONY OF DEFENSE WITNESSES

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necessitate undue consumption of time or (b) create substantial danger of undue prejudice, of

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confusing the issues, or of misleading the jury.

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In the instant case, as outlined above, the proffered testimony of Dr. Joel Burdick, Dr.
Bruce Beckwith, Dr. Nadim Karim, and Steve Schliebe, is irrelevant. Moreover, any marginal

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relevance would be substantially outweighed by the undue consumption of time and would

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create a substantial danger of undue prejudice, of confusing the issues, or of misleading the jury.

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IV.
Conclusion

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Testimony and other evidence must be relevant to be admissible. As outlined above, the
proffered testimony of Dr. Joel Burdick, Dr. Bruce Beckwith, Dr. Nadim Karim, and Steve

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Schliebe, is irrelevant. The testimony should also be excluded under Evidence Code §352. For

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all the foregoing reasons, the People respectfully request that this honorable court exclude the

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proffered testimony of these defense witnesses.

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DATED: March 17, 2015

Respectfully submitted,
JACKIE LACEY
District Attorney
By:

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_______________________
CRAIG W. HUM
Deputy District Attorney

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MOTION TO EXCLUDE TESTIMONY OF DEFENSE WITNESSES