Psychic Court on Almost Human

The Almost Human episode “Blood Brothers” involved a fact witness who was also a psychic. The episode also had the first look inside a courtroom for a trial in 2048.

AlmostHuman_Procedure_8518A note on the trial: Extremely well done. My only concern would be the Captain fighting the Defense attorney on being able to complete her answer. A Captain would have enough experience to know to wait for re-direct to answer the question the way she wanted to (Assuming key testimony was not covered in direct for whatever odd reason). Conversely, the Defense attorney was offering a lot of her own opinion in questions on the type of person who committed the crime, which would call for speculation. Other than that, courtroom scenes seemed pretty on point, with only a few exceptions. My compliments to the writers and procedures.

The character of Maya Vaughn was a fact witness in a murder trial. She also had psychic and medium abilities from the “cerebellics procedure.”

Vaughn was only being offered to testifiy to what she saw in a murder, not because of her enhanced psychic abilities. As such, the DA would avoid awkward questions to establish the witness as a psychic.

How could a DA offer a psychic? There are enough real news stories of the police using psychics to raise the issue on how an attorney would get a psychic before a jury. Oddly enough, I did not find any case law examples.

The most likely approach would be to offer the psychic as an expert witness. This could get strange quickly, as the lawyer would ask questions to demonstrate the witness’ skills to tell the future or speak to the dead. It also would either really impress the jury or make the lawyer look like a clown.

God knows how brutal the opposing attorney would be in their questions.

As to the issue of Maya Vaughn and the “cerebellics procedure,” that might be enough to withstand being established as an expert. How was the procedure done? Could the abilities be actually tested? Let’s review California Evidence Code section 801, which covers experts:

If a witness is testifying as an expert, his testimony in the form of an opinion is limited to such an opinion as is:

 (a) Related to a subject that is sufficiently beyond common experience that the opinion of an expert would assist the trier of fact; and

 (b) Based on matter (including his special knowledge, skill, experience, training, and education) perceived by or personally known to the witness or made known to him at or before the hearing, whether or not admissible, that is of a type that reasonably may be relied upon by an expert in forming an opinion upon the subject to which his testimony relates, unless an expert is precluded by law from using such matter as a basis for his opinion.

On the face of the code section, an expert opinion cannot be twisted into a dead person testifying from a “psychic medium,” because such testimony is not actually an opinion, but “hearsay” from a dead person. Given the issues with cross-examination or whether the dead can make a statement, a Court would likely bar such testimony.

AlmostHuman_Hearsay

Let’s review additional case law where psychics are involved or mentioned:

Getting a Judge to Say Quackery

That the state court may have decided the witness qualified as an expert does not end the matter, as there is room for habeas relief when the expert testimony is mere quackery. If a phrenologist is allowed to give expert testimony as to a defendant’s mental state during the commission of a crime, or if a psychic medium is deemed qualified to give expert testimony about a seance in which the deceased described what the defendant had done to him, fundamental fairness might require a new trial. Petitioner would have this court believe that Safarik’s testimony falls somewhere between the opinions of psychic mediums and phrenologists on the continuum of quackery. The court disagrees, although it does recognize the controversial nature of crime analysis as courtroom evidence.

Duvardo v. Giurbino, 649 F. Supp. 2d 980, 996 (N.D. Cal. 2009).

Dodging a Mistrial with a Psychic Juror

A Court of Appeal held a trial Court properly denied a motion for a mistrial. This was one of the few times where a judge was driven to call a juror “ridiculous” and swear. The court opinion is classic:

During voir dire of prospective alternate jurors, a prospective alternate juror stated that she had a problem serving as a juror on this case because she was “intuitive,” “being able to key into people’s psyche to know what’s going on,” and she felt that she already knew the “situation.” The trial court stated, “With all due respect to you, that’s ridiculous. . . . [Y]ou are telling me now that you know what happened in this case?” The prospective juror said, “No.” The trial court continued, “You haven’t heard one word, one witness. And just because you — here’s a man sitting here and you know what some charges are against him, you know all about it now?” The prospective juror said, “No, I didn’t say I know about the case. I just said –” When the trial court asked what she knew about it, the prospective juror asked the trial court if it wanted to hear her “instinct about it all,” because she did not want to prejudice the jury.

The trial court stated, “I don’t want to prejudice the jury either. [P] You say you have got some preconceived notions about the case already?” The prospective juror stated, “Yes, I do. I feel like he is guilty.” She explained that she had been sitting there “tuning into the whole situation” and “thinking about this for quite a while,” and she felt that appellant was guilty. She stated that she got paid for doing “this type of work” professionally and that she was being honest with the trial court. When the trial court excused her, she stated, “I know it’s — it sounds strange. It’s just a gift.”

The trial court stated, “We all know it’s ridiculous. [P] Anybody influenced by the fact that this lady just got up here and said in her opinion that this –” The jurors collectively responded in the negative. When one prospective juror raised his hand, the trial court stated, “Mr. [Juror No. 5708], you know you are sort of acting out of line here, you know. You took an  oath . . . earlier today to tell the truth, answer all the questions truthfully, all that. And you are doing your damndest to get out of this jury, aren’t you?” The prospective juror stated, “Yes.” The trial court admonished him that he had just been sworn as a juror and he would not be excused, further stating, “[A]nd I expect that you will fulfill your oath. Because you took an oath and that oath has consequences. And I expect that you will do that. [P] You understand what I am telling you?” The juror responded, “Hum.”

The trial court again asked, “Anybody influenced by the fact that the lady now comes in with her powers and just walked into the courtroom, has got some kind of powers, and she said he’s guilty, that, and in her mind that he is guilty? Anybody influenced by that?” The jurors collectively responded in the negative.

People v. Smith, 2008 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 681, 16-22 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. Jan. 28, 2008).

The Court of Appeal held the denial of the motion for a mistrial was proper. Even though the trial judge did not admonish the jury on the excused juror’s comments, the judge had said the comments were “ridiculous.” Moreover, the other jurors all were “open-mouthed and most were laughing at the prospective juror’s statements.” No juror said they would have been influenced by the excused juror’s comments. Id.

I Demand You Call a Psychic

A defendant challenged the State’s evidence it was “substantially probable” he would commit a sex offense, because the state did not offer a psychic. You do not need to be a psychic to guess how that argument turned out.

Defendant attacks the sufficiency of the State’s evidence in that the State did not prove that it was substantially probable that he would engage in the commission of sex offenses in the future. Defendant appears to argue that the State could not have proved “substantial probability” because the trial court did not appoint a “psychic” as an expert witness to predict defendant’s future behavior. The absurdity of this argument is clear on its face. Nevertheless, we conclude the State proved “substantial probability.”

People v. Henderson, 2013 IL App (4th) 120624-U, P18 (Ill. App. Ct. 4th Dist. 2013).

Suing for Loss of Psychic Powers

A Plaintiff sued a doctor and hospital for medical malpractice over the claimed loss of the Plaintiff’s psychic powers for a CT scan. The jury awarded the Plaintiff $600,000 in 1986 for these purported injuries (roughly $1,278,536.50 adjusted for inflation). Haimes v. Temple University Hospital, 1986 Pa. Dist. & Cnty. Dec. LEXIS 375 (Pa. C.P. 1986). The Court of Appeals ordered a new trial, on the theories the jury gave an excessive verdict, the jury had a misconception of the law and that the jury considered the loss of psychic powers as evidence, which had been dismissed as a non-suit before the trial. Id. 

 

 

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