Lawyers I’ve Known

No. 6: You aren't really a doctor, are you?

By Dave Grossi  |   Jul 9, 2015

I’ve worked for some great attorneys. The best are not only very knowledgeable in the area of police procedure, they’re masters of cross examination, too. A while back, I had the pleasure of seeing such a lawyer do a beautiful “slice-and-dice” number on an opposing expert at trial up in the Big Apple area.

A Cardinal Rule in the World of Experts is “don’t ever inflate your curriculum vitae.” This guy’s professional resume was replete with educational entries that would make a NASA astrophysicist feel inadequate. But a careful screening of his work history revealed that 20 years ago, he only spent 6 months as a part-time reserve officer. Here he was opining at trial that, in his expert opinion, “the conduct of Deputies Baker and Frost fell far outside the scope of acceptable police force procedure.”

Most of my work takes place in the U.S. District Courts. Usually the rule on sequestration (i.e., the separation of testifying witnesses) generally does not apply to experts. We are, for the most part, permitted to listen to all the evidence presented at trial including the opinion of the opposing expert. Such a case occurred a few years ago that brought fits of laughter to not only yours truly, but the jury, as well. This guy apparently never got the memo on inflating creds and he paid dearly for it on the stand.

Most folks know that there are of ton of diploma mills out there that offer degrees for a price. Well, this guy listed not one, but three Doctorates on his CV, and during his direct testimony he was constantly addressed by the plaintiff’s attorney as “Dr. Manfred.”

A modicum of research revealed that all three educational institutions from which the learned “doctor” graduated from were either unaccredited colleges (institution No. 1); no longer in existence as they were shut down by the Department of Justice as diploma mills (institution No. 2); or strictly electronic institutions with virtually no faculty to speak of that offered PhDs for a price (institution No. 3).

Now my experience is that most of these “experts” never want to appear in court for fear of being made out as posers. They’ll author a report, testify at deposition, and hope to hell the case settles before trial. But this guy missed that memo, too.

When it came time for cross-examination, the first question fired at the guy was “Now you’re not really a doctor, are you? I mean you don’t operate on people, do you?” Watching him stutter his way through his incredibly rapid advance through the University of What’s Happening Now which led to Doctorate No. 1 in Forensic Medical Investigations was nothing short of painful. His recitation on how he obtained PhD No. 2 in International Forensic Examinations from the University College of PayAsYouGo even had the jury heaving. And by the time the attorney finished his query on Doctorate No. 3 in Police Criminology (“is there any other kind, Mr. Manfred?”) from the University of Frogwarp, “Doctor” Manfred left skid marks getting off the stand. He exited the courtroom looking like Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt at the 2008 Olympics.

Defense verdict in 17 minutes.

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Dave Grossi
Dave Grossi is a retired police lieutenant from upstate NY now residing in southwest FL. He was the Lead Instructor for the Calibre Press, Inc. Street Survival Seminars from 1988 through 2000.