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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Preparation: Qualities of an Effective Expert

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

Jurors generally respond better to ordinary people, but they do not always like and trust experts. One reason for this dislike or mistrust is that experts tend to depersonalize themselves through their methodology, vocabulary or general demeanor. The end result is trial presentation by a robot-like creature who has become devoid of human warmth. That situation can be reversed, making testifying forensic experts more effective.

Six key qualities identify the effective, credible expert witness. The expert witness must:   

  • Perform a thorough investigation.
  • Demonstrate effective teaching ability.
  • Be competent.
  • Be believable.
  • Persuade users of factual accuracy, without advocacy.
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm and preparedness.

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