It is rare if ever that a proffered expert will be deemed so unqualified as to be precluded from testifying. Why? The threshold for expertise is decidedly low. To use the Pennsylvania test, “[t]o qualify as an expert witness, a witness need only have a reasonable pretension to specialized knowledge, on a subject for which expert
Do mask-wearing witnesses deprive criminal defendants of their right of Confrontation? Does impairing the ability of jurors and lawyers to fully assess ‘demeanor’ result in less reliable trials? Can jury selection be fair of prospective jurors’ faces are covered? Or is this all a Shakespearean “much ado about nothing” because we – the great majority
Does science support a firearms and toolmark expert from saying anything more than that “the firearm may have fired the recovered casing…? Not ‘it came from this gun and no other,’ or ‘casings from the crime scene and from test fires of the suspect’s gun match,’ but a much more calibrated and restricted conclusion, evidence that is
We live in a time where every action we take, every premise we rely on, warrants scrutiny through the prisms of race and implicit bias. This reckoning, long overdue for too many individuals and institutions, was brought about by the murder by police of George Floyd and the consequent outpouring of grief, rage and commitment.
The landmark holding Crawford v. Washington, now sixteen years old, changed the framework for challenging hearsay offered against the accused in a criminal case – if the hearsay was “testimonial” in nature it is admissible only under one of two conditions: The declarant will ultimately appear at trial and thus be subject to cross-examination regarding
Anyone who thinks about the Law of Evidence knows that there are gaps between cognitive psychology and the rules we try cases by. Excitement may distort or inhibit perception, but we permit and rely upon excited utterances as statements valued for their sincerity and truth. The dangers of limiting instructions are clear – they sometimes
Science in the courtroom must be reliable, and to ensure that we want and expect judges to serve as gatekeepers, examining both reliability and relevance; but we also want and need to protect the right to present a defense. Two cases illustrate the apparent collision of these demands and the result – two new trials.
How do we assess the expert we consult, the one we hire and proffer, or the expert we will be confronting? If it is the opposing expert there will be a deposition (in a civil case) and testimony from prior cases as well as intelligence gathering from attorneys in your field who have faced the
We think of experts as those who have studied and then put their knowledge to use – they have hands on experience, be it as the treating psychiatrist, the engineer who has built bridges, or the agricultural agent who has worked with farmers foe decades. And when selecting an expert for deposition or trial –
In a recent (October, 2019) manslaughter trial in Philadelphia, the jury heard a lot about the victim, information not limited to conduct at the time of the fight that led to his death. The jury heard, as an early defense witness, a bartender from Florida. Although the death occurred in 2018, the jury heard about