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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

More Testimony Suggestions

  1.   Be familiar with the courtroom in advance of testimony, if possible.
  2.   Be prepared; make sure all "homework" is complete.
  3.   Engage in a pretrial conference of all experts.
  4.   Correct errors as soon as they are discovered.
  5.   Admit any lack of knowledge or absence of investigation.
  6.   Be careful of courtroom and hallway fraternization.
  7.   Project conviction, without advocating a position on the case.
  8.   Maintain poise.
  9.   Exude warmth and friendliness.
  10.   Never lose your temper.
  11.   Practice calming techniques (slow inhale/exhale).
  12.   Translate all technical terms for the fact finder(s).
  13.   Consider following the example of an important role model.
  14.   Modulate the voice's volume for effect.
  15.   Beware of learned treatises:
    • a.   Verify that the material is familiar to you.
      b.   Avoid outdated material.
      c.   Do not accept the treatise as "authoritative" unless certain of its contents.
  16.   Make certain you are an expert in the particular area about which you are testifying.
  17.   Be an astute listener; answers are often embedded within a question.
  18.   Respond to the fact finders when you answer.
  19.   Do not become defensive or argumentative.
  20.   Reinforce testimony with a demonstration when appropriate.
  21.   Address the attorneys by name on occasion; it is a great equalizer.
  22.   Do not be afraid to say, "I don't know."
  23.   Be totally familiar with standard protocol.
  24.   Do not be an egoist or egomaniac on the witness stand.
  25.   Avoid conferring with or handing notes to counsel in the presence of the fact finder.
  26.   Check and recheck preparation, test results and calculations.
  27.   Make certain that body language reflects the expert's commitment and openness.
  28.   Know tip-off signals to avoid: "Yes, that's true, but let me explain."
  29.   Be very familiar with what you have previously written or testified to in prior examinations, both in the current case and in any previous similar cases.
  30.   Use cross-examination to reinforce your direct-examination position.
  31.   Be confident in your expertise.
  32.   Admit any facts that might suggest bias.
  33.   Be alert to subtle changes in hypothetical questions.
  34.   Do not conceal the obvious; use it to advantage.
  35.   Be aware of cross-examination techniques and objectives.
  36.   Moderate expression of absolute certainty in the face of overwhelming information to the contrary.
  37.   Customary weak points in opinion are based upon the exercise of "judgment."
  38.   Be cautious of input from others, even though it is allowed by the rules.
  39.   Prior inconsistent statements in the same or similar cases are a testimonial hazard.
  40.   Avoid mannerisms of insecurity:
    • a.   Flushed face.
      b.   Trembling hands.
      c.   Stammering or hesitant voice.
      d.   Touching the face or mouth.
  41.   Change the wristwatch to the opposite wrist or a ring to a different finger before testifying as a personal reminder to keep answers brief and keep focused.
  42.   Apply a three-step test to every question that is posed to you as a testifying witness:
    • a.   Understand what the question is.
      b.   Quickly determine what the examiner is seeking with the question.
      c.   Decide how to best answer the question.

      It is during the deliberation of these three steps that the witness takes a breath, considers and analyzes the question, and frames the response. Taking a breath before answering the question will help the expert appear to deliberate and will give the expert a chance to digest the question and more thoughtfully respond.
  43.   Listen to each question carefully to avoid potential traps or pitfalls.
  44.   When testimony is concluded, leave the courtroom unless instructed to stay.
  45.   Take the opportunity to observe and learn from the expert testimony of others, when the appropriate opportunity arises. An expert who wishes to improve his or her   testifying technique and ability can learn much from observing others on the stand — both effective experts and those who are less effective.
  46.   Be willing to ask for and accept constructive suggestions and criticism of your testimony technique.
  47.   Use post-testimony review and self-evaluation as tools for self-improvement.

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Date Created: September 1, 2023