Use-of-force expert at issue in Trooper Londregan’s case

View the follow-up to this post here.

On September 19, 2023, HC Attorney Mary Moriarty announced that the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) had turned over to her office its investigation into the July 31 use of deadly force by Minnesota State Trooper Ryan Londregan.

During the announcement, Moriarty noted that her office (HCAO) had already hired a use of force expert to review the case and provide expert analysis on whether Trooper Londregan’s actions were reasonable, saying this independent review was a “critical part of our process.”

“We have already identified a use-of-force expert — the type of expert who examines evidence in nearly every case where an officer uses force. Their independent review is a critical part of our process. We selected this expert even before we received the completed investigation so that we could move forward with our work immediately upon receipt of the file. To ensure a fair and just process, we cannot disclose any further information at this time.”

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty

It is no secret that “expert witnesses” are hired by parties in a case to support their arguments. A party would not make use of an expert witness whose opinion and future testimony would undermine their argument.

I noted how important it would be to eventually learn the identity of the expert witness hired by the HCAO, so that their body of work could be evaluated to determine the level of impartiality that could be expected from the witness.

“The hiring of a use-of-force expert to review the case and provide expert testimony will be a very important aspect to evaluate in this case. We are not aware who this expert is at this point, but this expert’s historical body of work will be telling in evaluating whether the HCAO is acting impartially in this case, or whether they hired an expert who has made a career out of impugning law enforcement officers.”

The HCAO reviewed the case for four months after receiving it from the BCA, presumably calling on and relying heavily on the independent analysis of the use-of-force expert it had retained.

However, on January 24, 2024, the HCAO charged Trooper Londregan with 2nd Degree Murder, 1st Degree Assault, and 2nd Degree Manslaughter, without the use of the expert witness Moriarty had called a “critical part of our process.” 

The complaint made no reference to the use-of-force expert’s analysis of Trooper Londregan’s actions, and in her press conference announcing the charges, Moriarty confirmed that her office had made its charging decision without the use of the expert.

Yesterday we learned more about the timeline involving the expert witness. The timeline and Moriarty’s decision not to rely on the expert witness’s analysis suggests strongly that the witness differed with Moriarty’s office on the key issue of whether Trooper Londregan’s use of deadly force was reasonable. 

In a court filing March 7, Moriarty’s office made a motion to Judge Garcia, to quash a subpoena that Trooper Londregan’s attorneys had served on the expert witness. In the subpoena, the defense had requested all reports and opinions, draft or final, written by the expert while reviewing the case.

In the request to quash the subpoena, the HCAO laid out some of the timeline of events with the expert, identified as a male from out of state. 

  • The expert was retained in August well before the case investigation was completed or turned over. 
  • On September 20 the HCAO met with the expert and turned over reports and other investigative evidence to him shortly thereafter. 
  • On October 13 the HCAO held its first substantive meeting with the expert to “discuss his preliminary thoughts.”
  • The HCAO appears to have stopped using the expert after this meeting, stating they “did not hold another meeting with the witness to discuss his opinions about the case after October 13, 2023, and, on December 21, 2023, the State ceased sending additional discovery materials to the witness. The witness did not receive or review transcripts from the grand jury proceeding or any additional discovery obtained by the State after December 21, 2023.”
  • On January 24, 2024, the HCSO issued charges against Trooper Londregan.
  • On January 26, 2024, the HCAO “asked the witness to hold off any further work on the case, and the witness agreed to do so.”

Judge Garcia’s ruling on the motion to quash the subpoena has not yet been filed.

Determining the opinion of the expert witness, especially when it appears the expert’s opinion differed from the HCAO’s position, would be significant. It would serve to illuminate what has long been suspected — that Moriarty’s decision to charge Trooper Londregan was made long before her own expert weighed in, and that the use of an expert really wasn’t a “critical part” of any process Moriarty intended to use. 

The appropriately attentive and aggressive defense in this case is a welcome relief, certainly to Trooper Londregan, but also to the entire law enforcement community.