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United States v. Veysey

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
334 F.3d 600 (7th Cir. 2003)


John Veysey (defendant) intentionally burned down his house and collected the insurance proceeds. Veysey then rebuilt the house and blew it up, again collecting the insurance proceeds. Afterward, Veysey moved to a new house and burned it down to collect the insurance proceeds, and then set fire to another house before being arrested. Veysey was charged with fraud and arson. At trial, the prosecution introduced the expert testimony of Charles McClenahan. McClenahan testified that the probability of four residential houses burning down by chance during the period in which Veysey’s four houses were destroyed was 1 in 1.773 trillion. However, McClenahan’s methodology erroneously assumed that the probabilities of a person having four house fires were unrelated and independent of each other. An earlier house fire could have resulted from carelessness that made later house fires more likely, or alternatively could have promoted cautiousness that made later house fires less likely. McClenahan’s methodology also did not account for other factors that would have made the houses more or less likely to be destroyed by fire, such as age, location, style, and building materials. However, Veysey did not object to McClenahan’s methodology. Rather, Veysey only objected to McClenahan’s testimony generally, arguing that the testimony concluded Veysey was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and thus usurped the jury’s role. The trial court overruled the objection, and Veysey was convicted. Veysey appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Posner, J.)

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