How to Select and Prepare the Best Expert Witness
Expert witnesses may be called upon to testify in all different kinds of court cases, and they can provide some of the most crucial testimony, potentially swaying the jury in favor of the prosecution or defense with the evidence and opinions they deliver. These witnesses can come from nearly any field or background, depending on the scope of the case, so you might find that you need an expert in forensic technology, medicine, psychology, firearms, automobiles, or even something unexpected like soil or water samples, just for example. They type of expert you need depends almost exclusively on the case in question, but there are experts in every field, so even if you need a witness that has a PhD in medieval women’s medicine, you can find one. However, knowing the field of expertise that needs to be covered is only the beginning when it comes to finding an expert witness. You need to find the best possible witness available and then properly prepare him for examination on the stand.
It’s hard to say whether finding the right witness or preparing him for the rigors of a courtroom trial will be more difficult. But you’ll have to start by interviewing potential candidates. The right person will, of course, be an undeniable expert in his field. This means you have to find someone that has a stellar reputation, not only publicly, but also amongst his peers. He must have the best education, plenty of experience, and preferably, some extras like published works or important research under his belt. And his career should be untarnished in any way. The last thing you want is for the credibility of your witness to be undermined because there were allegations of improper relationships with students enrolled in his college courses, just for example. The point is that you need to do more than read a resume – you must do background checks to ensure that your expert witness is beyond reproach.
Of course, you also need to select someone who is calm and collected. An expert witness is only as good as the testimony he provides in court, so he can’t be the type to fall victim to prodding or outright attacks by the opposing council while he’s on the stand. He must not only be articulate and concise when it comes to answering questions, but he has to be self-assured and in control at all times. It is the job of your opposition to attempt to discredit your expert, goad him into an emotional outburst, or somehow get him to contradict his own testimony. He must be on his guard against such attacks and it helps if he is an even-keel sort to begin with. Becoming flustered, angry, or anxious on the stand will almost certainly lead to losing credibility with a jury.
You will have to coach any witness, however, on how to behave in the courtroom. While these people are experts in their given field, most are not prepared for the difficulties of acting as a witness. You will therefor need to go over questions that may be asked throughout the course of examination, including any questions the opposition is likely to throw at your witness. You also need to teach him not to panic if he is asked something that isn’t covered. Remind him that he can take his time – he need not be badgered into making a hasty answer – and that the most important thing is to answer only the questions asked, without embellishment, sentiment, or volunteering information. Finding and preparing expert witnesses is not easy.
Although websites like iLawConnect now make it a lot easier to search for prospective witnesses to testify on your behalf, finding a credible witness that will back up the case you present wholeheartedly and without reservation can be a difficult task. And preparing him for trial can be a seemingly insurmountable task. But with the right resources you should be able to find a suitable expert to act as a witness, and with proper coaching nearly any professional can be groomed to stand in court and deliver testimony.
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