A case does not have to be considered a complex one or even a case in the headlines to need an expert witness. Expert witnesses are needed to explain intricate issues to a jury and to simplify cases to a jury. The reason an expert is used is because they help win cases. Statistics suggest up to 25% of people who served on juries would have changed their verdict from guilty to not guilty if an expert had testified in a case. This the main reason to call an expert.
Any time I meet with a client and discuss an expert witness, I am often asked, how much will this cost? My response is how can you not afford to present an alternative version of the case. However, clients need to consider how cost-effective and valuable the testimony of an expert can be in the proper case. With all of the technology in the world today, and criminal cases involving some form of technology, an expert witness is almost a necessity. If you are facing a serious charge, then the cost of hiring an expert almost pays for itself.
There are various types of expert witnesses and the rules governing expert testimony can be found under Rule 702., Federal Rules of Evidence. The first type is a rebuttal witness. A rebuttal expert is there to offer an alternative conclusion to the government’s expert. This is what I call the battle of the minds. Second, is a favorable expert, they have an alternative theory based on possibly the same agreed upon facts.
In society today with all the technology we have, the list of experts are endless. Some of the most common called experts are: fingerprints, perception, linguistics and language, forensic accounting, medical, toxicology and computer experts.
How do we decide if you need an expert? One way is to look at the government’s case in small parts. For example, in a bank robbery case, I might question how a bank teller could remember a man’s face when there was a gun pointed at her? In this scenario, a basic Internet search will offer multiple sources of information allowing an attorney to become well versed in the applied sciences concerning identification.
Additionally, you can go to Google and search for expert witnesses in forensic accounting or fraud and there will be ample experts in this area. You can immediately find a multitude of articles and papers.
In a tax fraud case, the government may allege that the business owner is “cooking the books”. The business owner’s signature is found on a host of incriminating documents and the alleged investments really had no possibility of yielding returns. Now the missing money seems to be vacationing in tropical banks. In short, take each of the distinct areas and do an Internet search making sure to incorporate words such as “expert,” “witness,” “trial” and “criminal.” Again, in little time, you will be presented with both sources of information and a listing of possible experts.
The above are just examples on how to prepare a case for trial and offer an alternative theory to a case or to rebut the government’s position.