Expert Witness

The Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center recommends the use of expert witness testimony for human trafficking prosecutions. As an experienced human trafficking expert witness, Dr. Mehlman-Orozco provides a variety of services for both criminal and civil litigation.

References available upon request.

Criminal Prosecution: Given the clandestine nature of human trafficking crimes, as well as the trauma bond that often exists between victims and offenders, fewer than .01% of traffickers are ever convicted for their offenses. Expert witness testimony from Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco can assist in explaining the complexity of human trafficking victimization to juries and judges alike. Prosecutorial use of expert witness testimony in human trafficking cases can help close the credibility gap of victims. Research suggests that complainants in human trafficking cases still struggle to gain credibility in the eyes of police, prosecutors, and jurors. Expert witness testimony can educate jurors and restore credibility to complainants’ accounts. The majority of human trafficking survivors have engaged in behaviors that may be perceived as being inconsistent with claims that they have suffered abuse. Using easy to understand explanations, conceptual/logic models, and simple translations of research, Dr. Mehlman-Orozco can educate jurors on the impact of human trafficking victimization and the complex reactions of complainants due to the trauma bonding with their offender.

Criminal Defense: According to international law (United Nations, 2000), federal law (Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000), and state law (safe harbor statutes for juvenile victims), human trafficking victims should be protected from criminalization. However, instead of providing victim services for human trafficking survivors, responding law enforcement agents are often inclined to arrest, prosecute, and detain human trafficking victims as a result of misidentification (Adelson, 2008; Drasin, 2012; Kittling, 2006; Office of Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center [OVCTTAC], n.d.; Reid & Jones, 2011; Wharton, 2010). This disconnection between policy and practice has highlighted a critical need for expert witness testimony in criminal court.

Human trafficking victims are frequently charged with crimes related to their victimization (e.g. prostitution, drug possession, and even human trafficking.) Given the trauma bond that often accompanies human trafficking victimization, survivors may be initially unwilling to cooperate with law enforcement (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children [NCMEC], n.d.) and exhibit behaviors associated with criminality. Expert witness testimony can be used to clarify the distinction between prostitute and sex trafficking victim, human trafficker and human trafficking survivor.

Civil Litigation, Plaintiff: An increasing number of human trafficking survivors have turned to civil litigation for redress. Causes of action include, but are not limited to:

• 18 U.S.C. § 1589 and 18 U.S.C § 1590: forced labor.

18 U.S.C § 1591: sex trafficking.

18 U.S.C. §§ 1960-1968: RICO conspiracy.

Plaintiffs in civil litigation can benefit from expert witness testimony to clarify the distinction between prostitute and sex trafficking victim, human trafficker and human trafficking survivor. Using easy to understand explanations, conceptual/logic models, and simple translations of research, Dr. Mehlman-Orozco can educate jurors on the impact of human trafficking victimization and the complex reactions of complainants due to the trauma bonding with their offender (see earlier section on Criminal Prosecution for additional details).

Civil Litigation, Defendant: Human trafficking civil litigation has recently expanded beyond victims and offenders to include third parties who may or may not have had knowledge about the crime. Unfortunately, due to the clandestine nature of the crime, many law enforcement agencies and first responders (victim service providers, health care workers, etc.), and social service experts (counselors, social workers, etc.) still miss opportunities for victim identification. As a result, it may not be reasonable to expect an untrained business to identify and take action against human trafficking. Expert testimony can provide an independent evaluation on the reasonableness of third party knowledge of human trafficking crimes, as well as the utility of online advertisements for human trafficking intervention.

In addition to her work as a subject matter expert on human trafficking, Dr. Mehlman-Orozco is also skilled in jury consulting, as well as public opinion polling and survey methodologies, which can be used for change of venue motions.