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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Additional Rules for Excellence

A few additional rules of testimonial excellence are worthy of emphasis and repetition:

  • The expert should keep his eyes on the examining attorney when a question is being asked and then shift his gaze to the trier of fact (court, jury or hearing panel) to respond. Talk to each of the panel members, one at a time. Maintain eye contact and hold focal attention.

  • If jurors, the judge, or the hearing panel members are looking out the window, around the room, or at the opposing party while the expert is testifying, the expert should regain control of the situation and bring attention back to the testimony. Move to a chart. Draw a picture. Pause talking long enough to regain attention. In extreme circumstances, ask for a brief recess.

  • Potential problems in the courtroom could be: uncomfortably warm or cold temperature, lack of enthusiasm on the expert's part, or confusing or illegible demonstrative aids. Listeners may have given up following the expert's testimony or their side of the case. Alternatively, listeners may have made up their minds to support the expert's testimony and felt they did not need to hear anything more.

In certain respects, testimonial communication is no different than living room communication. Speak clearly and simply. Limit responses to the questions asked. If the expert has done his homework well, he will be confident in the conclusions and positive in the testimony.

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