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Selecting an Expert Witness: Tips Every Defendant Should Know
August 28, 2013
Most people have heard about expert witnesses, whether on a television courtroom drama or in news reports of an actual case gone to trial. But what exactly is an expert witness? How should someone choose the best expert witness for their legal case? The answers to these questions are as interesting as they are complex.
In short, an expert witness is a person who has established a high degree of competency in a certain field or position. This level of competency is usually attained through years of hard work, copious research, strong determination and commitment to the expert’s field of work or study.
What Expert Witnesses Do at Trial
Basically, an expert witness uses their knowledge and experience to explain some technical aspect relevant to the case in a way that the jury can understand. Many legal cases involve complicated technology, jargon or information that an average juror may not understand well enough to reach a verdict.
For example, in medical malpractice cases, an expert witness may testify on the proper procedure that should be used when administering medical care. This may help the jury to better understand the case. Another example would be an assault case involving firearms, where a firearms forensics expert could help explain the details of a shooting in the simplest way possible.
Selecting a Good Expert Witness
In order to select a good expert witness who may be able to produce impressive, credible testimony that can sway a jury, there are a few tips to follow:
The best expert witnesses will have a solid curriculum vitae that is filled with reputable credentials and valuable experience. Somewhat like a resume, the curriculum vitae is a detailed list of the achievements, certifications and experience that the witness may have.
Preparation on the part of the expert witness is vitally important. The best expert witness will be capable of thorough study of the issues important in the trial. They will also be willing to stick with a trial until its conclusion while maintaining their convictions and firm opinions.
Additional credentials never hurt. An expert witness who has been published in a scholarly journal on the subject relevant to the trial will have even more expertise and credibility with a jury. Also, a good expert witness will be comfortable with answering questions in a trial setting and will be able to calmly and confidently answer any question they may be asked.
By following a few simple guidelines, the selection process for a good expert witness does not have to be intimidating. An expert witness who has solid credentials, extensive relevant experience and confidence and poise on the witness stand has a good chance of convincing a jury.