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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Avoiding Pitfalls of Selective Fact Gathering

An expert can follow key steps to avoid the pitfalls of selective fact gathering or fact presentation: 

  • Keep an open mind.
  • Do not approach a case with predetermined conclusions about causation, culpability, fault or damage.
  • Remember that attorneys and others may come to the lab or expert with facts that may be slanted, either accidentally or intentionally.
  • Carefully follow well-established investigative steps, protocols and standards of procedure.
  • Apply forms, procedures and processes that will ensure that no evidence is overlooked.
  • Observe all professional ethical guidelines.
  • Recognize the expert's vital role in the criminal justice and dispute resolution process.

The causes for adverse trial results from selective or inadequate fact investigation may be due to: 

  • Attorney oversight in failing to ask the right questions of the right parties.
  • Misstatements of fact by parties because of faulty recollection, lack of appreciation of the significance of facts, or intentional nondisclosure of facts (i.e., lying).
  • Inadequate investigation by the expert due to:
    • Failure to test and explore evidence fully.
    • Lack of proper direction, inadequate time, or lack of equipment.
    • Inadequate direction pursued by attorney or other parties.

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