Brown, Janet. Expert testimony: pitfalls and privileges. National Fire
& Arson Report. Vol. 16, No. 4 (December 1997).
Abstract: This article discusses what is involved with testifying
as an expert witness. It reviews what are the qualifications that can be
used to be qualified as an expert witness. The article then goes into what
the term "expert" means within the legal environment. The Federal
Rules of Evidence, Rule 702, provides guidance on the criteria: "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."
Some tips regarding tactic and control in the courtroom while testifying
are reviewed. These include issues such as leading questions, hypotheticals,
voice inflection, eye contact, impingement on "space", freedom
of movement, attempts at embarrassment, discourtesy, sarcasm, and use of
Other tips regarding how to answer questions, demeanor, etc. are also
Depositions are also discussed. Depositions are situations where the
investigator is interviewed with attorneys from the various interests present,
but there is no judge to rule in these situations. It is just as necessary
to be prepared for a deposition as it is for a trial, because the deposition
can be entered into evidence during the trial.
A number of questions to establish the investigators qualifications can
be asked, including certifications, experience, education and training,
prior testimony, memberships, publications and presentations, research activities,
and job duties.
The article then turns to the questions that might be asked regarding
the scene investigations and subsequent actions.
Going to trial is then covered. Tips are offered on how to prepare for
testimony and how to answer questions. Demeanor, candor and competence are
important aspects of testifying.
In conclusion the author offers 10 tips for testimony.