Judge rules she can present expert testimony that she gave false answers on immigration forms as to prior conviction for terrorist murder due to PTSD.
In a development I predicted but hoped would not happen, convicted terrorist murderer Rasmea Odeh has been granted a new trial on immigration fraud charges alleging she knowingly lied on visa and naturalization applications by denying her conviction and imprisonment.
The new trial was granted because the trial court decided to allow an expert to testify that Rasmea suffered from PTSD at the time of the false answers, and that the PTSD caused Rasmea to “filter” questions as to whether she “EVER” (bold and CAPS in original) was convicted or imprisoned. Rasmea answered No to such questions, and now claims that her PTSD made her interpret the word EVER to mean since arriving in the U.S. in the 1990s.
The PTSD was the result of what allegedly was 25 days of sexual torture leading up to Rasmea’s confession to the bombing of a supermarket in Israel in 1969 that killed two Hebrew University students, Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner. The evidence shows, contrary to Rasmea’s claim, that she confessed the day after arrest, not 25 days later, which is inconsistent with her torture claim. The prosecution says Rasmea is lying about the torture claim.
Both scientifically and factually, the claim is nonsense for reasons we have explored many times. As relates to the expert, the court never should have allowed such testimony for many reasons, including because the expert theory of “filtering” as used here never has been accepted or even attempted in the medical literature or any court, the testimony related to Rasmea’s current state not the time when she made the false statements.
See the following posts for more background both on the case and the expert issue:
- Legal Analysis: Rasmea Odeh’s “expert” PTSD testimony inadmissible under clear court standards
- Prosecution Theory of Rasmea Odeh’s Incentive To Lie About Being Tortured into Confessing
- Appeals Court remands Rasmea Odeh case for expert evidentiary hearing
Unfortunately, the Judge disagreed, and there will be a new trial starting January 10, 2017, at which the same evidence of false statements will be presented, but the experts from both sides will battle over the PTSD “filtering” theory.
Below is the decision (pdf.) granting the new trial. It really is weak, particularly in failing to distinguish between general PTSD and the very specific filtering claim here. The Judge basically held that generalized effects of PTSD are recognized, so it’s enough. He also said that other issues were for the jury to sort out.
What this “expert” testimony is really about is jury nullification, the hope that if the jury gets to hear Rasmea’s testimony about being tortured, the jury will ignore the clear evidence that she knowingly lied on her immigration forms. I guess we’ll get to find out in January if the jury nullification tactic works.
Rasmea’s supporters are planning to blitz the U.S. Attorney’s Office with phone calls asking it to drop the case.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, December 7, 2016–FOR A FULL DAY, from 9 AM to 5 PM EST–please call U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade at 313-226-9100, and demand that she stop wasting taxpayer money, that she stop persecuting a woman who has given so much to U.S. society, and that she Drop the Charges Against Rasmea Now!
In response to my inquiry referencing calls by Rasmea supporters to drop the case, Gina Balaya, Public Information Officer for the prosecuting US Attorney’s office, stated that the prosecution would go forward:
We plan to go forward with the trial to present our case. The new trial is to allow Ms. Odeh the opportunity to present an expert witness. It does not change our view or position on the case.