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Expert Testimony in an Arson Case**

excerpted from "Motive, Means, and Opportunity, A Guide to Fire Investigation."
American Re-Insurance Company, Claims Division, 1996.


Table of Contents


Expert Testimony Basics

Expert testimony is the cornerstone of an arson case. It establishes the Corpus Delicti of arson and serves as the framework for all other evidence in the trial. It is the objective of every fire investigator to be qualified as an expert witness and testify at trial. It means the investigator has been recognized as a qualified fire investigator who has the experience, training and education to determine the cause and origin of a fire. It also means the investigator has done his homework in this case and has put together enough evidence to get into court. The final step in the investigative process is the presentation of expert testimony at trial, which will establish the cause of the fire. Expert testimony is not just important to an arson case, it is essential. One of the unique aspects of arson cases is that they always require expert testimony at trial.

More than any other witness, the fire investigator as expert witness has the ability to single-handedly influence the outcome of an arson trial by his or her testimony. Successfully presenting expert testimony is a challenge to the fire investigator. It requires thorough preparation and careful presentation at trial. The true measure of an expert fire investigator is more than the technical skill and experience in the field, which enable the investigator to determine a fire's cause and origin. The ability to effectively and convincingly testify at trial is the true measure of an "expert" witness.

1. The Expert Defined

The concept of an "Expert Witness" has a special legal significance. The definition of an expert witness is found in the rules of evidence. The Florida Evidence Code (Florida Statute: 90,702) and the Federal Rules of Evidence (Rule 702) are nearly identical and provide:

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise (Rule 702, Federal Rules of Evidence)

There are two prerequisites for the admissibility of expert testimony at trial. First, the witness must be qualified by virtue of knowledge, skill, experience, training or education in the field. Second, the subject of the expert's testimony must be something outside of the knowledge and understanding of ordinary persons such as jurors, so that the testimony will help the jury better understand the evidence and determine the facts to be decided at trial.

The term "Expert Witness" is somewhat misleading. Qualification as an expert witness by the court does not mean the witness is an infallible source/authority in the field of fire investigation nor is this required to be qualified. All that is required of the witness is a showing of some special knowledge or understanding of the field, which the ordinary person does not possess. The means by which an expert witness has acquired the special knowledge or understanding of the field can vary. It does not require a "diploma" in expert testimony nor any formalized training and education. In practical effect, formal education is much less important than actual experience in the investigation of fires.

2. Deposition Testimony

Trial testimony of an expert witness in an arson case is generally regarded to be the most important part of the case. Cases are won or lost based upon the testimony of the expert at trial. While that may be true, the success or failure of an expert's testimony may be determined long before trial. A poor performance at deposition can have a devastating impact upon a case. An understanding of the importance of deposition testimony is an essential part of the game plan in litigating arson cases.

a. The Availability of Discovery Depositions in Arson Cases

At one time, discovery depositions were not readily available in certain arson cases. The federal rules of civil procedure previously restricted the availability of expert witness depositions and required a court order for a deposition to be taken. However, the federal rules of civil procedure were amended in 1993 to not only permit the depositions of expert witnesses, but require the disclosure of the expert's report with a full statement of all opinions and the basis for those opinions, the information considered in reaching the opinions, any exhibits or tangible evidence to be used by the expert in support of his opinion, a qualifications list for the expert with all publications authored by the expert in the prior ten years, a disclosure of the fees charged for the analysis and testimony in the case, plus a listing of all other cases where the witness has testified as an expert at trial or in deposition within the prior four years. All of this is required to be disclosed without even being requested by the other side. If the expert has not prepared a written report reflecting his analysis and findings in the case, he will be required to prepare one to be given to the other side. This information is required to be disclosed prior to the time of the expert's deposition. Thus, when the expert's deposition is conducted in the case, the other side will have already been provided virtually everything from his file and all of his findings, along with a personal history of his involvement in other cases as an expert. When it is time to appear for the deposition, all of the cards will be on the table.

The federal rules of civil procedure have changed form the most restrictive disclosure of an expert's conclusions and testimony to the most expansive. Some states have long permitted complete discovery of an expert's opinions and testimony through discovery depositions. As to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the taking of expert witness depositions requires a court order, but is generally available. Whether the case is civil or criminal, state or federal, an expert witness in an arson case will almost certainly be required to appear for deposition. The only possible exception is when an expert witness has been retained in the case, but will not be testifying at trial. The deposition of such an expert witness can only be taken in federal court or state court upon a showing of "Exceptional Circumstances" requiring a court order. Moreover, the expert will be entitled to be paid a reasonable fee for his deposition testimony.

Being required to appear for a deposition is more than a possibility, it is a virtual certainty. The expert witness appearing for a deposition must be as prepared and organized as he will be at trial. The deposition must be approached just as seriously as trial testimony before the jury. A lack of preparation or simple carelessness during the deposition can have devastating consequences. In order to successfully testify at deposition, the expert witness must have an understanding and awareness of the deposition process.

b. Let's Go Fishing. Once a deposition of an expert witness has been scheduled, the purpose of that deposition must be understood. To put it plainly, it is nothing more than a fishing expedition. The objective is to find out anything and everything about the expert witness himself, his activities in the case at hand and the basis of his expert opinion that will be offered at trial. The attorney conducting the deposition will utilize any number of strategies in achieving this objective.

(1) This is not a Picnic

The setting for a deposition is usually informal, and far less structured than testimony at trial. However, a deposition should always be taken seriously by the witness. It should be approached as a "dress rehearsal" for trial. Indeed, should the expert witness later become unavailable for any reason, his deposition testimony will become his testimony at trial. Certainly, anything that is answered incompletely or differently from his testimony at trial will be used for impeachment purposes. The expert witness should view the deposition the same way as he views the trial. In practical effect, they are one and the same.

(2) Beware of Letting Down Your Guard

The attorney conducting a deposition wants to catch the witness off guard. He wants the witness to say something he really didn't want to say. He does not want the witness to feel he is on the defensive, although he certainly should feel that way. To this end, the attorney will often try to put the expert witness at ease by telling jokes and trying to charm his way in the expert's heart. The same attorney who pats you on the back at deposition will have a knife in his hand when he does it at trial. No matter how congenial or friendly the attorney may seem, his sole purpose in conducting the deposition is to discredit the expert's testimony.

(3) So, Tell Me Your Life Story

As previously stated, the attorney conducting a deposition wants to know anything and everything about the expert witness. This will certainly include a review of the expert's professional life history. The witness can expect to be asked about most the following areas:

(a) Educational history

(b) Degrees and certificates

(c) Licenses and professional accreditation

(d) Investigations or suspensions by regulatory authorities

(e) Prior expert testimony: How often, when and where

(f) Prior associations with the party and law firm retaining him in this case

(g) Membership in professional organizations

(h) Activities and leadership roles in professional organizations

(i) Publications and presentations at training programs

(j) Research activities in the field

(k) Attendance at continuing education programs

A skilled attorney will not only develop this information, but will verify it after the deposition. The expert witness should expect no less.

(4) The Role of the Arson Investigator's Resume

A resume is an important credibility tool for the arson investigator at a trial. It is the single best way to organize the elements of expert qualifications prior to testifying.

The resume organizes information regarding the arson investigator's training and experience into a format that can be presented in a deposition, hearing, or trial. Investigators should be prepared to submit a resume (as a separate document) to the prosecutor when necessary. For this reason, a resume should always be kept current.

A resume should also be neat, organized, and eye-catching. It should be typed, type-set, or printed-NEVER handwritten. NEVER lie in a resume and avoid puffing up credentials. When including a section on references, ask permission before listing someone's name.

Key points-

(a) Resume Contents

1) Education (Note: List education in rank order:

a). Graduate School/Advanced Degrees

b) College

c) High School

d) Special Training

e) Professional Seminars

(b) Training

1) Fire/Police Academy

a) National Fire Academy

b) State Schools

c) Seminars

2) Military training and experience

a) Special skills

(c) Certifications

1) Firefighter I, II, III (NFPA/state)

2) Police Officer

3) Certified Fire Investigator (State/IAAI)

(d) Experience

1) Positions held

2) Supervisory responsibilities

3) Number of investigations participated in

4) Number of investigations as lead investigator

(e) Prior Testimony

1) How many times?

2) Where?

3) Qualified as expert?

(f) Teaching Experience

1) Fire/Police

2) Investigators

3) Public

(g) Association Memberships

1) IAAI

2) State organizations

3) Positions with these groups

(h) Professional Writing Credits

1) Magazines

2) Articles

3) Books

(i) Awards and Honors

(5) Why Are You Here?

Having developed a full picture of the expert's background, the focus of the deposition will be turned to the case at hand. The inquiry will include the following areas:

(a) Who retained you in this case?

(b) When were you retained?

(c) What was the precise scope of the assignment when you were retained?

(d) What information were you given at the time you were assigned to this case?

(e) What information did you develop prior to carrying out the investigation?

(f) What outside sources of information did you consult at any stage of your investigation?

(g) When did you initiate your investigation?

(h) When did you first reach a conclusion?

(i) What information have you learned since reaching your conclusion?

(j) Have you pursued any further information since completing your investigation? (k) Have you been made aware of the findings of other experts in this case?

(l) Have you reviewed the findings and opinions of any other such experts?

Because the scope of questioning at a deposition is much broader than the questioning that will be permitted at trial, there is a much greater potential for the investigator to get into trouble. The investigator must be careful in answering questions so as not to make any careless remarks, which will be regretted later. The investigator cannot afford to lose patience during the deposition or react to what might be an insulting question or comment. The investigator must never volunteer information beyond what is strictly necessary to answer the question. An unprepared investigator is only inviting disaster and this remains the most important consideration in successfully testifying at deposition.

3. Trial Testimony

a. Qualifying As An Expert Witness

The process of qualifying as an expert witness at trial can be intimidating. A fire investigator feels particularly vulnerable during the qualification process, especially when facing cross-examination on the investigator's background, training and experience. Questions will be asked about the investigator's educational background and formal schooling, employment history, rank and responsibilities in the department or agency, the number of fire scenes previously investigated and the number of times the investigator has previously been qualified as an expert witness at trial. Every investigator would like to have more education, higher rank and more experience at the time of trial when these questions are asked. Qualifying as an expert witness for the first time can be a humbling experience. However, there is no guarantee it will get any easier down the road. Every time a fire investigator goes through the qualification process, the challenge must be faced again.

In order to testify as an expert witness, the investigator must first be "Qualified" by the Court (Judge). This is the process of demonstrating the investigator's training and experience in the field of fire investigation. A series of questions will be asked of the investigator in order to lay out those qualifications. Typically, the following areas will be covered:

(1) General educational background

(2) Employment history and prior experience in fire service or fire investigation (3) Current employment as a fire investigator, including the position held by the investigator with the duties and responsibilities of that position

(4) The jurisdictional authority of the fire investigator

(5) Specialized training and education in the field of fire science and fire investigation

(6) Familiarity with specialized publications and materials in the field of fire investigation

(7) Membership in organizations or groups concerned with fire investigation and arson

(8) The number of fire scene investigations that the investigator has conducted or participated

(9) The number of fires the investigator has made a determination of cause and origin

(10) The number of times the investigator has given testimony in official proceedings such as grand jury hearings, depositions and prior trials

(11) The number of times and the jurisdictions the investigator has previously been qualified as an expert witness in the field of fire cause and origin

Additional questions may be asked of the investigator depending upon his particular back-ground and experience. The facts of a particular fire may make the investigator uniquely qualified to testify as an expert in that case.

b. How does an arson investigator qualify as an expert?*

Webster's defines an expert as "one who has acquired special skill in or knowledge of a particular subject, an authority." Black's Law Dictionary (5th Edition) defines an expert as "one who, by reason of education or specialized experience, possesses superior knowledge respecting a subject about which persons having no particular training are incapable of forming an accurate opinion or deducing correct conclusions."

(1) Here's a test to determine expertise. Is the individual:

  • Trained and experienced in a field of endeavor beyond the realm of normal understanding of lay person?
  • Familiar with literature in the field?
  • Knowledgeable enough to teach the subject to others?
  • Experienced in providing testimony as expert on other trials?

For the person(s) responsible for determining the level of expertise of a fire expert and the likelihood of his testimony being considered "expert testimony" at trial, here is a list of more sample questions to qualify a fire expert-

(2) Identification:

  • Name?
  • Employment? In what capacity? How long?

(3) Education/Training:

  • Describe your formal education.
  • Number of hours of formal instruction in fire fighting?
  • Did you attend a fire academy? The National Fire Academy? Classes?
  • Number of hour of instruction in fire investigation?
  • Did you attend the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center? Classes?
  • Any specialized seminars?
  • Any training in origin and cause determination?
  • Any training in electrical fire causes?
  • Any training in various accidental fire causes?
  • Is it possible to determine the cause of a fire?
  • Any training in pattern recognition?
  • Any training in study of fire behavior?
  • Do you read any fire service trade magazines? Which ones?

(4) Certifications

  • Any certifications?
  • Issued by whom?
  • What were certification requirements?
  • Is an exam required?
  • Is continuing education required?

(5) Experience

  • How long in fire suppression?
  • Have you fought fires in the past? How many?
  • What positions/ranks have you held?
  • When did you first get involved in fire investigation?
  • Are you assigned exclusively to fire investigations?
  • How many investigations have you conducted during your career?
  • Did these investigations include digging in the fire debris?
  • Have you investigated fires that were accidental and incendiary?
  • Have you participated in controlled or training burns?
  • Have you confirmed your opinion of the origin and cause of the fire with videotape of how the fire was set?
  • Have you confirmed your opinion of the origin and cause of the fire by interviewing persons who admitted setting the fire?
  • Have you participated in test fires involving various ignition devices?
  • Have you participated in test fires involving trailers and other means of spreading the fire?
  • Does your training include the hazards of smoke?
  • What are some of the combustion by-products in smoke? (Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, Cyanide, Hydrogen Sulfide)
  • Are these products hazardous? Are they flammable? Can they explode?
  • Is there a name for that explosion?
  • Have you participated in fires involving these products?
  • Does the fire department follow any procedures with respect to smoke?
  • Is that why they chop holes in roofs?
  • Have you seen similar patterns in various test fires to those you learned about in your training classes?
  • As part of your investigation, do you eliminate accidental causes for the fire?

(6) Prior Testimony

  • Have you testified as an expert witness before (depositions count)?
  • How many times?
  • In what jurisdictions?

(7) Professional Associations

  • To which professional organizations do you belong to?
  • Does the organization publish any material? Do you read it?
  • Do you attend their seminars?

(8) Teaching Experience

  • Do you teach in this field? How often? To whom?

(9) Professional Writing

  • Have you written articles or books in the field of fire investigation?
  • Any published? How many? Where? Circulation? (Department, Local, State, National, International)
  • What titles?

(10) Awards and Honors

  • What awards have you received as an investigator?
  • When did you receive them?
  • From whom?

4. Presenting the Testimony**

Expert testimony in an arson trial should do much more than simply establish the cause and origin of the fire. It should focus the jury's attention on the critical evidence in the case and develop the theory of the case. The fire investigator's expert testimony should be interesting and informative. It should establish the credibility of the fire investigator as an "expert witness,' thereby establishing the credibility of the entire case. The fire investigator's testimony should be the highlight of the trial. In order to achieve this, the testimony must be properly presented.

There are certain ground rules for successful testimony as an expert witness at trial. Some of these rules are obvious, yet they are often overlooked by even the most experienced fire investigator. These rules should be understood and kept in mind every time a fire investigator testifies at trial.

(a) The Ground Rules

(1) Preparation. The most important rule of trial testimony is, unfortunately, the rule most often broken. There is no substitute for preparation. At trial, the investigator must be thoroughly familiar with the investigative file. The investigator should be able to recite all of the steps in the investigation in the proper order in which they took place. The investigator should be able to recall names, dates and places without hesitation. The investigator should be oriented to the fire scene and its physical layout. The investigator should review the file and prepare an outline of all the important facts, which can be read over while the investigator is waiting to testify.

(2) Organization. As part of the investigator's preparation, he should organize the file and the presentation of testimony. Generally, the most effective presentation is one which follows the chronological order of the investigation. However, this is not a rigid rule and the objective should be an orderly logical and understandable presentation of the case to the jury. Photographs and exhibits should be organized in the proper order and numbered accordingly. In that way, the investigator will not be jumping back and forth between areas of the fire scene when describing the photographs to the jury. A well-organized presentation to a jury captures their interest, demonstrates the professional-ism of the witness and enhances the credibility of the testimony.

(3) Physical Appearance. It should be obvious that one who is testifying at trial in the role of an expert should look professional. Before the first words of testimony are spoken, the jury will form an opinion of the witness from appearance and manner of dress. A witness from the fire service or law enforcement who is dressed in uniform at trial is always an impressive sight. It reminds the jury that the witness is a public servant. If the witness does not belong in a uniform, a coat and tie should always be worn to court. Bright colors and plaids should be strictly avoided. Similarly, flashy jewelry should never be worn to court. A jury is influenced by the physical appearance of a witness and will draw conclusions about the credibility of the witness based upon that appearance.

(4) Attitude and Demeanor. A somber, professional attitude while testifying will bolster the image of the witness before the jury. Arson is a deadly serious issue and the investigator's demeanor at trial should reflect that belief. The witness should be courteous at all times, especially during cross-examination and when discussing the alleged arsonist. Sarcastic remarks from the witness stand have no place in an arson trial. The objectivity of an investigator's case will be reflected in the objectivity of the testimony.

(5) Nervousness. Every person who has testified at trial has experienced nervousness and anxiety. It is a natural reaction to the circumstances of the proceeding. However, extreme nervousness can undermine the effectiveness of trial testimony. Certainly, an adept defense attorney will seek to exploit the nervousness of a witness in order to confuse and disrupt the witness' testimony. Thorough preparation is still the best way to deal with nervousness. Nervousness is typically the product of uncertainty. Thorough preparation and organization will remove much of the uncertainty of trial testimony. A rehearsal before trial with the attorney involved in the case can alleviate concerns about the process of testifying at trial. This rehearsal should include both direct and cross-examination on the facts of the case.

A slow-paced, deliberate style in testifying is the best approach to this problem. Controlled breathing is recognized as an effective way to reduce tension. A nervous witness should certainly avoid drinking coffee while waiting to be called to the stand.

(6) Candor. In order to believe an investigator's findings, the jury must first believe in the investigator personally. Sweeping generalizations, statements in absolute terms and the refusal to recognize unfavorable evidence will weaken the investigator's credibility before the jury. It is far better to candidly acknowledge the problems in an investigator's case than to lose the appearance of objectivity by ignoring the facts. In preparing the trial, the investigator should be prepared to acknowledge them while pointing out the reasons they do not influence the outcome of the findings.

(7) Confidence. In order to convince the jury the investigator's findings are correct, the investigator must demonstrate his/her belief in the case. The investigator should not have to apologize for the findings. The investigator should not back down from those findings, especially during cross-examination. Once a case has proceeded to trial, it is not the time to show any uncertainty about the investigator's findings. Once again, thorough preparation and organization will contribute to the appearance of confidence in the investigator's case.

(8) Terminology. There is a special terminology in fire scene investigation. Certain technical terms are widely used by investigators and other authorities in the field. However, in all probability the jury has never heard any of those terms before. The investigator must be able to relate the testimony in terms that are understandable by the jury yet still be sufficiently professional to reflect his/her expertise. The investigator should be prepared to explain the terminology and the significance of the particular terms without "talking down" to the jury. In fact, explaining technical terminology to the jury provides the investigator with an opportunity to demonstrate expertise while establishing a rapport with the jury.

Investigators should strictly avoid the phrases and terminology used in a typical police report or fire report. Just as a lawyer should avoid "legalese," fire investigators should avoid using tired terminology when testifying before the jury.

(9) Communication with the Jury. As previously stated, the very purpose of expert testimony is to assist the jury. Therefore, the investigator must remember that the testimony is directed at the jury seated in the jury box. Establishing eye contact with the jury and speaking directly to the jury serves two purposes. First, it shows that the investigator is not afraid to "look the jury in the eye" and present testimony. That has long been recognized as a measure of candor and truthfulness. Second, it shows the respect due the jury in its important role as trier of fact in the case. It also serves to direct the jury's attention to the testimony being presented through the expert witness.

A good lawyer will take advantage of every opportunity during a trial for personal contact with the jury in order to personalize the case and establish rapport. The expert witness should take the same approach. For this reason, the expert witness should (with the approval of the judge) leave the witness stand when possible and go right over the jury box when testifying about photographs, diagrams, and physical evidence. The witness should stand directly in front of the jury and point out the important aspects of the photographs, diagrams and evidence. The witness should hand the evidence to the jury members for their inspection as he/she testifies. Once again, the witness can develop direct eye contact with the jury members while standing there face-to-face.

During cross-examination, a lawyer will often walk across the courtroom to the opposite side from the jury box. In doing so, he/she hopes to direct the expert's testimony away from the jury box. A skilled investigator will turn to the attorney to listen to the question, and then turn back to the jury for the answer.

(10) Exhibits and Visual Aids. An effective presentation of expert testimony on the cause and origin of a fire will make use of visual aids and demonstrative exhibits. A fire scene can never be accurately "described" to a jury; it must be shown to them in photographs slides and diagrams. A skilled presentation of visual aids will not only serve to familiarize the jury with the fire scene and the significant evidence at that scene, it will also capture their interest and focus their attention on the testimony. The fire investigator's testimony should be the highlight of an arson trial.

Taking photographs are, of course, a part of every investigator's standard procedures at a fire scene. However, at the time of trial the investigator must have enlargements of the fire scene photographs to show the jury. Photographs should be enlarged to a minimum of 8 X 11 inches. A critical photograph of the fire scene should be enlarged even further. An even more dramatic method of showing the jury details from the fire scene is to utilize slides. However, photographs should still be used so that the jury can study them during deliberations.

A large diagram of the fire scene should always be part of the investigator's presentation. The diagram will be used to show the path of burn of the fire, the presence (or absence) of significant items in the building and the location of doors and windows in the building. Once again, it is something the jury can examine during deliberations at the close of trial. Sometimes the facts of a case will warrant test burns to establish the combustibility or flammability of materials found at the fire scene or to show the effect of fire on the materials. That can be captured on videotape for a dramatic and interesting presentation to the jury at trial. If videotape is not available, then slides or photographs can be used. In any event, visual aids and demonstrative evidence should always be made a part of the investigator's testimony at trial. It makes the investigator's testimony more professional, more interesting and more effective.

Note: A well-organized, systematic approach to expert testimony in an arson case will enable the witness to make an interesting, entertaining and effective presentation to the jury at trial. That is what leads to the successful result every investigator seeks.

5. Trial Questions*

Investigators should be prepared to answer a multitude of questions under direct examination at the trial regarding the actual investigative steps taken during the fire. (Note: If the investigator's report is properly prepared it should serve as the guide for these questions.) Some examples are:

a. Were you on duty on ________ (date)?

b. At any time on that date were you sent to _____ (fire location)?

c. How were you notified about the incident?

d. Did you go to the scene?

e. How long did your examination of the scene last?

f. Describe what you did.

g. What did you observe outside the building?

h. Any smoke? Any fire?

i. What was going on?

j. Any fire fighting?

k. From your examination of the building and noting the directions of fire travel, were you able to form an opinion as to the area of origin you believe this fire began?

l. On what facts do you base this opinion?

m. Did you take steps to eliminate other possible areas of origin?

n. Were there other areas of origin?

o. Based on your observations and training, were you able to form an opinion about the additional areas of origin?

p. Did you take steps to eliminate various possible causes for the fire in the area you believed to be the area of origin?

q. What steps?

r. What did you eliminate as possible fire causes in this case?

s. Were you able to form an opinion as to the specific cause of this fire?

t. What is that opinion? Arson / Accidental / Undetermined

u. Did all these events take place in _____________ county?

NOTE: Many jurisdictions now recognize the danger fire can pose to life in addition to property by having a specific charge for it. As a fire investigator, you may be asked for your opinion about whether persons in nearby exposures were jeopardized by the fire. Note the following additional questions-

  • Based on your examination of the scene and the neighborhood surrounding the fire, were you able to form an opinion as to whether this fire endangered anyone?
  • What is that opinion?

A proper direct examination will build slowly and logically. Ultimately, it will elicit the investigator's expert opinions regarding the cause and origin of the fire. A good direct examination is structured for the maximum dramatic effect. The investigator should be very sensitive to word choice and language on the stand. Practicing the testimony as well as any demonstrations to show specific principles of the investigator's testimony are essential and well worth the advance time they require. This should take place ideally at one of the early meetings between the investigator and the prosecutor to explore these areas and to decide on a theme for the case.

6. SAMPLE FORMS TO HELP ESTABLISH QUALIFICATIONS

EXPERT WITNESS INFORMATION SHEET

EMPLOYMENT

Name:_______________________ Agency:____________________________

Employment with Agency since:______ Current Title/Rank:___________________

Current Title/Rank since:__________ Duties:____________________________ ____________________________________________________________________

Previous Title/Rank with current Agency (if applicable):________________________

Time period for previous title/rank:________________________________________ Duties:______________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________

Prior Employer/Agency:_________________________________________________

Period of Employment:_______________ Title/Rank:________________________ Duties:______________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________

Prior fire service experience - department:__________________________________

Time in fire service:_________________ Initial Title/Rank:____________________

Last Title/Rank:_____________________ Duties:___________________________

State certification(s) in fire service:________________________________________ _________________________________ Date(s) of certification:______________

Prior military service-branch of service:____________________________________

Length of service:_____________________________________________________

Rank at separation/discharge:____________________________________________

Fire service/ordinance training in military:___________________________________

Status at separation/discharge (Honorable/Other):____________________________

EDUCATION

High School/GED earned:_____________ School and year:___________________

Community College/ University courses taken:_______________________________ ____________________________________________________________________

Name of College/University:_____________________ Years:_________________

Grade Point Average:________________ Degree(s) earned:_______________

Post-Graduate Studies:______________ College/University:_______________

Grade Point Average:________________ Degree(s) earned:_______________

FIRE INVESTIGATION TRAINING

On-The-Job Training (Agency):__________ Supervisor/Trainer:_______________

Length and Dates of O.J.T:______________________________________________

Number of fires investigated with supervisor/trainer:___________________________

Number of criminal/civil cases made from O.J.T investigation:____________________

Number of in-service training programs:_____________________________________

Subject area(s) of in-service training programs:__________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________

Date(s) and Place(s) of in-service training programs:___________________________ _____________________________________________________________________

Instructors:____________________________________________________________

Other training programs attended (attach continuation if needed) (a) Title of Program:___________________________Date:______________________ Place:______________________ Topics:_______________________________

Course hours:____ Tested (Y/N):_____ Score:_____ Certification (Y/N):____________

(b) Title of Program:___________________________Date:______________________ Place:______________________ Topics:_______________________________

Course hours:____ Tested (Y/N):_____ Score:_____ Certification (Y/N):____________

(c) Title of Program:___________________________Date:______________________ Place:______________________ Topics:_______________________________

Course hours:____ Tested (Y/N):_____ Score:_____ Certification (Y/N):____________

(d) Title of Program:___________________________Date:______________________ Place:______________________ Topics:_______________________________

Course hours:____ Tested (Y/N):_____ Score:_____ Certification (Y/N):___________

(e) Title of Program:___________________________Date:______________________ Place:______________________ Topics:_______________________________

Course hours:____ Tested (Y/N):_____ Score:_____ Certification (Y/N):____________

(f) Title of Program:___________________________ Date:______________________ Place:______________________ Topics:_______________________________

Course hours:____ Tested (Y/N):_____ Score:_____ Certification (Y/N):____________

Other miscellaneous training received:______________________________________

Training programs taught - subject:_________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________

Sponsoring organization/agency:___________________________________________

Date and Place:__________________ Course hours taught:____________________

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

(a) Organization:________________________________________________________

Date Joined:_______ Current status (regular/associate/etc.):_____________________

Number of meetings attended:____ Appointments/offices held:___________________

(b) Organization:________________________________________________________

Date Joined:_______ Current status (regular/associate/etc.):_____________________

Number of meetings attended:____ Appointments/offices held:___________________

(c) Organization:________________________________________________________

Date Joined:_______ Current status (regular/associate/etc.):____________________

Number of meetings attended:____ Appointments/offices held:___________________

ORIGIN AND CAUSE EXPERIENCE/EXPERT TESTIMONY

Approximate number of fire scenes investigated:_____________________________

Approximate number of times origin and cause determined:____________________

Number of times called to give sworn testimony concerning origin and cause (including depositions, grand jury testimony and trial testimony):_________________

Number of times certified by court as an expert witness in fire investigation/origin and cause determination:___________________________________________________

List of courts and jurisdictions where qualified, with approximate date(s):__________ ____________________________________________________________________


*This section is based upon, and contains excerpts and quotes from "How to Make Love to a Prosecutor," by Peter S. Beering, C.F.I. and is used with his permission.

**This section is based upon, and contains excerpts and quotes from "Expert Testimony in an Arson Case," by Guy E. Burnette, Jr. of the law firm of Butler, Burnette, and Pappas, 6200 Courtney Campbell Bayport Plaza - Suite 1100, Tampa, Florida 33607-1458. It is used with his permission.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Beering, Peter S.,C.F.I., How to Make Love to a Prosecutor or How Not to Get Screwed By a Prosecutor, 43rd Annual Seminar of the International Association of Arson Investigators, January 1992, p. 13-29

Burnette, Guy E., Jr. Expert Testimony in an Arson Case.pages 1-19. Mr. Burnette is a member of the law firm of Butler, Burnette and Pappas of Tampa, Florida

Reprinted with permission.

 
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