Expert witnesses

The latest in my ‘Learn Something New Every Day’ series – taken from The Great Courses’ Trails of Evidence: How Forensic Science Works (Lecture 31: Forensic Scientists and Expert Testimony)

Revolving door of court appearances

Testifying as an expert witness can be quite lucrative but it can create ‘rock stars’ and showponies. At its worst, it can create opinions-for-hire, and the rock star experts don’t always have the best reputations amongst their peers.

But the reality is, to save time and effort in the exhaustive process of vetting the suitability of potential expert witnesses (both on the stand and off), attorneys  tend to lean toward (re)using the same experts again and again so that their past appearances in court can be used to pre-qualify them as expert and expedite proceedings. Both sets of attorney will simply agree for the record that the expert is suitably credentialed.

Could you be an expert witness?

Really, anybody can serve as an ‘expert witness’ so long as they have expertise in the topic of question.  In a court setting, an expert can be any person who (through their training, education, experience, published works, membership in professional organisations or combination of those) could assist a judge or jury by giving an opinion on a given matter.

Think about it… What could you sit in a court-room and confidently provide an opinion on?

Anything? No? Sad isn’t it… 😉 But in better news at least we don’t have to go to court.