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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Book Review - A Guide to Forensic Testimony

by Fred Chris Smith and Rebecca Gurley Bace

"An expert is just some guy from out of town." - Mark Twain

Although this book is primarily geared towards IT professionals, there is a lot here for image analysts. This book is all about expert witnesses. It is written in a style that is easily accessible to all knowledge levels. It is not a "legal rule book" as such. It is a very helpful guide for those who have never testified before a jury or in a hearing.

There is something in this book for everyone involved in the process of bringing expert testimony to a trial. According to the introductory text, "beginning experts" who accept expert witness assignments can gain much by reading this book:
  • An understanding of certain aspects of the legal system, ranging from processes to specific rules
  • An understanding of the different types of experts who may testify or consult about litigation, with specific focus on expert witnesses and the different roles they play within the legal process
  • Courtroom communications skills applicable to a broad audience (both inside and outside the legal system)
  • Skills for enduring cross-examination by an experienced and skilled adversary
  • Skills for preparing for legal testimony, including specific physical and mental conditioning exercises
  • An understanding of how expert witnesses are selected for specific types of cases
  • An understanding of how legal needs and constraints affect expert witnesses
  • An understanding of what judges may look for to qualify an expert when the opposing party challenges the expert
  • Specific recommendations on how to effectively manage expert witness assignments, from the initial meeting with the attorney in the case to the final question from the cross-examining attorney at trial
Legal professionals who work with forensic experts can also benefit. Lawyers who hire experts can gain new insights into the concerns that technical experts have about becoming involved in litigation for the first time. Judges who must decide on the qualifications and methods of experts can consider how experienced experts think about these challenge rounds and how such challenges affect the willingness of the best and the brightest experts to enter the fray.

Clients whose interests are affected by the performance of forensic experts can benefit. Clients who want to win at all costs can gain an understanding of why expert objectivity and credibility are often indistinguishable and why, when those qualities are combined with competence and experience, they most often lead to the best results.

Risk managers can learn how the process of the trial team's brainstorming with the help of an accomplished expert and trial consultants can lead to an early, cost-effective, and equitable settlement with the other side or a more effective framing and presentation of the technical issues and evidence at trial.

The book concludes with a thorough examination of the major legal cases under which we operate; including Frye and Daubert as well as those federal rules of evidence and procedure that contain provisions of special relevance to technical expert witnesses.

From an examination of the "rules of the game" to a look at the use of visual aids to an examination of major cases to creating stories about complex technical issues, this book is a great resource for all of us. 

I've provided a link to this book in the side bar. Check it out at Amazon.com or your favourite retailer.

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