United States District Court, C.D. California
ORDER RE: DEFENDANT’S MOTION IN LIMINE TO
EXCLUDE TESTIMONY INTERPRETING CODED LANGUAGE 
Honorable Ronald S.W. Lew Senior U.S. District Judge.
before the Court is Defendant Brian Sawyers’
(“Defendant”) Motion in Limine to
Exclude Testimony Interpreting Coded Language 
(“Motion”). In his Motion, Defendant seeks to
exclude testimony proffered by the government interpreting
coded language in conversations between Defendant and a
confidential informant (“CI”). For the reasons
stated below, this Court DENIES Defendant’s Motion
present Motion arises from audio and video recorded
interactions, which the government alleges were drug deals,
between Defendant and the CI. The government alleges that on
February 3, 2012, the CI spoke to Defendant at
Defendant’s place of business to try to arrange a drug
deal. Pl.’s Opp’n (“Opp’n”)
2:7-8, ECF No. 95. The government contends that later that
same day, the CI met Defendant and purchased approximately
one ounce of crack cocaine for $700. Id. at 2:20-22.
The government alleges that on March 1, 2012, the CI met
again with Defendant at Defendant’s place of business.
The government alleges that during their meeting, the CI told
Defendant that he wanted to purchase crack cocaine.
Id. at 2:24-3:2. The government maintains that
shortly thereafter, at Defendant’s home, Defendant sold
the CI approximately two-and-a-half ounces of crack cocaine
in exchange for $1, 700. Id. at 3:5-9. The
government states that during these two encounters, Defendant
and the CI were recorded by audio and video surveillance
equipment. The government further states that “[d]uring
the course of these recorded meetings, calls, and drug deals,
[D]efendant and the CI used coded language and/or slang in 
discussing the terms of the drug transactions.”
Id. at 3:10-15.
is charged in a two-count indictment with (1) distribution of
cocaine base in the form of crack cocaine, in violation of 21
U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C)(iii) (Count One);
and (2) distribution of cocaine base in the form of crack
cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1),
(b)(1)(C)(iii) (Count Two). Trial is set for August 2, 2016.
October 28, 2015, the government provided Defendant with its
expert disclosures, which notified Defendant that the
government intended to call, among others, Los Angeles Police
Department (“LAPD”) Detective Christian Mrakich
(“Mrakich”) as a drug expert, who will testify
regarding, among other things, the use and meaning of coded
language or slang used in the recordings between Defendant
and the CI. Opp’n, Decl. of Ann C. Kim (“Kim
Decl.”) ¶ 2, Ex. A.
15, 2016, the government supplemented its expert disclosures
with regard to the drug expert testimony that would be
elicited at trial, including, but not limited to, the use of
coded language by drug traffickers and distributors, and
specifying the specific code words and/or slang to which
Detective Mrakich would testify. Kim Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. B.
22, 2016, Defendant filed the present Motion in
Limine seeking to exclude Mrakich from testifying about
certain words / phrases on the grounds that the proffered
testimony is not necessary to help the trier of fact
understand the evidence or determine a fact at issue.
witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill,
experience, training, or education may testify in the form of
an opinion or otherwise if: (a) the expert’s
scientific, technical, or otherwise specialized knowledge
will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or
determine a fact in issue.” Fed.R.Evid. 702. An
expert’s opinion may be based on hearsay or facts not
in evidence, where the facts of data relied upon are of the
type reasonably relied on by experts in the field.
See Fed.R.Evid. 703. An expert may also provide
opinion testimony even if it embraces an ultimate issue to be
decided by the trier of the fact. See Fed.R.Evid.
Ninth Circuit has held that the admissibility of expert
testimony generally turns on the trial court answering the
following questions: (a) whether the opinion is based on
scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge; (b)
whether the expert’s opinion would assist the trier of
fact in understanding the evidence or determining a fact in
issue; (c) whether the expert has appropriate qualifications;
(d) whether the testimony is relevant and reliable; (e)
whether the methodology or technique the expert uses
“fits” the conclusions; and (f) whether the
probative value is substantially outweighed by the risk of
unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, or undue consumption
of time.” United States v. Hankey, 203 F.3d
1160, 1168 (9th Cir. 2000).
Mrakich’s Testimony is ...