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State v. Caliz-Bautista

Court of Appeals of Idaho

November 2, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
EUGENIO CALIZ-BAUTISTA, Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 56

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Jerome County. Hon. John K. Butler, District Judge. Order granting motions in limine and judgment of conviction, affirmed.

          Calbo & Depew, PLLC; C. Ira Dillman, for appellant. C. Ira Dillman argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Ted S. Tollefson, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Ted S. Tollefson argued.

          HUSKEY, Judge

         Eugenio Caliz-Bautista appeals from his judgment of conviction after a jury found him guilty of sexual abuse of a child under the age of sixteen. On appeal, Caliz-Bautista argues the district court erred in granting the State's motions in limine that excluded the testimony of Caliz-Bautista's expert witness. Because the expert's testimony was speculative about whether the State violated its testing protocol or contaminated the evidence, we affirm the district court's order granting the State's motions in limine and judgment of conviction.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Caliz-Bautista was arrested and charged with felony lewd conduct with a minor under sixteen years of age, Idaho Code § 18-1508, and felony sexual abuse of a child under the age of sixteen years, I.C. § 18-1506. As part of the investigation, the State collected DNA evidence consisting of saliva from one of the victim's breasts and the State tested that sample to compare it with a saliva sample from Caliz-Bautista. The results of the DNA analysis indicated the saliva recovered from the victim matched the DNA sample from Caliz-Bautista.

         Caliz-Bautista requested, and the district court approved, funding for a DNA expert to examine the State's testing methods. In his witness disclosure, Caliz-Bautista explained:

[The expert witness] will testify generally as to proper DNA testing protocol. He will testify as to the accepted science standards to avoid contamination. He will testify as to how contamination can occur in DNA testify [sic]. He will more specifically testify as to the procedures used to test the DNA in this case and how those procedures go against standard appropriate lab protocol to avoid contamination. He will testify that the samples in this matter were packages [sic] and sent to the biological lab together. He will testify that the sample obtained from Mr. Caliz was "out in the laboratory" for DNA extraction at the exact same time as the samples obtained from the complaining witness in this case were also having DNA extracted.

         The witness disclosure provided only this general information and contained no additional foundation. Defense counsel later admitted that no written report existed.

         The State filed a motion in limine to exclude Caliz-Bautista's expert testimony on the grounds that the testimony was speculative. At the motion hearing, defense counsel explained the expert's testimony, which would conclude that multiple samples were in the lab at the same time during the extraction process and the samples were loaded into a testing machine simultaneously. The procedure, according to the expert, violated the State's own lab protocol. The expert did not explain the degree to which the procedure violated standard protocol, nor could he quantify the effect. Defense counsel did not explain or provide the basis from which Caliz-Bautista's expert concluded the samples were out and extracted at the same time, except that he had reviewed the State lab testing procedure manual. In its memorandum decision granting the State's motions in limine, the district court explained: "Counsel has provided no explanation from the expert as to how [the State lab] documentation demonstrates that the samples were open at the same time in the laboratory and the Court's review of that documentation does not show an explanation on the face of the documentation itself." The district court acknowledged the testimony might be relevant to impeach the State's DNA expert, but the district court granted the motions in limine subject to a further offer of proof from Caliz-Bautista.[1]

          During trial, Caliz-Bautista attempted to call the expert as a witness. Caliz-Bautista made an offer of proof, during which the expert witness testified and was questioned by both parties and the district court. The expert explained he reviewed documents from the crime lab and was familiar with the analytical methods that were typically employed by the lab, including the requirement that the lab separate all samples by time and/or place in order to avoid contamination. The expert explained that, according to the records he reviewed, the lab violated this protocol because several samples were out in the lab at the same time and the same instruments were likely used to process them.

         The district court reserved ruling on the admissibility of the expert testimony. After the State and Caliz-Bautista finished presenting their respective cases-in-chief, the district court granted the State's motion to exclude the testimony of the expert witness, holding the testimony was speculative, ...


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