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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Role of Expert in Compiling Information

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National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

The retaining attorney will rely on the expert witness to provide the information necessary to comply with the discovery rules. There are three general classes of information the expert may need to compile:

  1. Case-specific testing data and materials.
  2. Individual qualifications.
  3. Information regarding agency operation and practice.

Case-specific information may include:

  • Reports.
  • Lab testing notes.
  • Chain of custody logs.
  • Phone logs.
  • Testing data.
  • Testing procedural information.
  • Secondary reviewer identification and notes.
  • Any other information normally contained in the case file.

Individual qualifications are normally found in the expert's curriculum vitae (CV). Experts should ensure that their CV is current and accurate.

A discovery request may include items pertaining to a lab, a university, or employer documents. Agency background information normally includes:   

  • Agency policies and procedures manuals.
  • Accreditation requirements, documentation and their status.
  • Guideline compliance in particular disciplines (e.g., Scientific Working Groups in forensic science, such as SWGMAT, SWGDAM).
  • Equipment used and relevant maintenance logs, calibration logs, quality assurance procedures and related logs.
  • Quality control protocols and their related logs.
  • Identification of external components used during testing (e.g., sexual assault kits, reagents, chemicals).
  • Proficiency standards.
  • Testing and results.
  • Industry standard inspections and results.
  • Proficiency test results.
  • Complaints.
  • Internal investigations.
  • Conformance with discipline guidelines.
  • Listing or explanation of requested documents not to be released by the lab.
  • Reference to a standard discovery request (e.g., CD, sample request).

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