Expert witnesses can be brought into a case for a wide variety of reasons including educating the members of the jury on a particularly complex subject or offering their opinion on how a piece of evidence should be taken into account, just to name a few. It is the decision of the judge who presides over the procedure to determine if the expert witness is allowed, and can also describe conditions under which the expert’s testimony will be heard. Certain questions, for example, may not be asked if the Judge feels it may unduly influence the jury. Attorneys will argue over what can be admissible as well. These experts are often considered well educated and experienced in their field, and their long career history.
What Juries Want
Typically, what juries want, based on post-trial interviews, is an expert witness who will teach them what they need to know in order to make an informed decision. If a doctor, for instance, can explain a particular illness to the satisfaction of jurors, it helps them understand why someone got sick in the first place, and how it is relevant to the decision they must make.
What jurors also indicated was important is the medical expert’s proximity to the person’s illness to which they are testifying. A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer will ultimately choose an expert witness who can testify about the actual person rather than theories and conclusions found in journals and books. If juries don’t find the expert’s opinion relates to the case at hand, in other words, they may discount it as “they were never even there” to see the ill person, so “how could they know?”
It seems jurors can also detect the expert’s knowledge of the particular case, rather than inferring the evidence is related to their vast knowledge. They know when the expert hasn’t read the details. In essence, jurors tend to place more belief in those who may have little experience testifying as an expert and more experience in the trenches doing all the work. Professional expert witness, therefore, may seem less believable because their job is testifying, as opposed to real life experiences.
What Juries Need
A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer will carefully weigh out how all evidence will be presented to a jury, and have special requirements when it comes to experts. Juries also cannot be expected to consider the information they do not understand. They do require education of some very complicated information at times, and the attorney will choose carefully. For example, if the trial involves high-tech computer information, we can assume jurors will have varied knowledge on the subject. It will take an expert to explain, for example, how coding works to make software user-friendly, and they’ll need someone to educated them on the subject.
Interestingly, the expert will need to balance “teaching” with presenting juries their opinion or appearing as though they are influencing their decision. A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer will carefully map out questioning so the expert doesn’t appear to be anything more than a teacher, simply there to help the jury decide. Expert witnesses who appear to be influencing the jurors can easily be discounted, and jurors have often pronounced they decided to discount the expert altogether. Some have remarked they felt their decision had nothing to lose by completely disregarding the facts presented.
What Lawyers Must Do
Because jurors can have a much different view of experts than attorneys, judges, and those in the courtroom, criminal defense attorneys will balance the pros and cons of the expert testimony with the needs and wants of the jury. Because it can be such an important part of the proceedings, preparing and expert witness is vital. Keeping in mind that juries have the upper hand in the courtroom, their opinion and how they may perceive a witness is crucial.
In one of the most famous cases of the century, jurors completely discounted DNA evidence in the OJ Simpson case because they felt it was irrelevant, boring, and ultimately tampered with due to what they saw as more compelling evidence presented elsewhere in the proceedings. This is certainly an easy example of a very complicated trial, but jurors ultimately tell the truth of what they found to be the most compelling evidence in any case, and Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys pay scrupulous attention to what jurors believe to the best example of truth.