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United States v. Saelee

United States District Court for the District of Alaska
162 F. Supp. 2d 1097 (D. Alaska 2001)


Facts

Saelee (defendant) was charged with importing opium from Thailand. The opium was found hidden in candy bar wrappers which at first glance were mailed from the United States, but then returned to the sender after an unsuccessful delivery. The prosecution sought to introduce the testimony of John Cawley, a forensic document analyst, who at first planned to testify as an expert witness to his conclusion that based on an examination of Saelee’s writing, Saelee was the writer of the address label on the package. However, the prosecution then changed course and sought to have Cawley testify only about the similarities between Saelee’s handwriting and the handwriting on the address label without coming to a conclusion. Without having Cawley present a conclusion, the prosecution thought, it could introduce his testimony as a lay witness or an expert witness, where if he stated a conclusion, he could only testify as an expert. Saelee filed a motion in limine to exclude Cawley’s testimony either under Rule 701 or 702.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Holland, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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