Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Urges Judges’ Consideration Presenting Expert Testimony to Jurors


Urges Judges’ Consideration Presenting Expert Testimony to Jurors

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges judges and lawyers to consider the following factors in determining the manner in which expert testimony should be presented to a jury and in  instructing the jury in its evaluation of expert scientific testimony in criminal and delinquency proceedings:
  1. Whether experts can identify and explain the theoretical and  factual basis for any opinion given in their testimony and the reasoning upon which the opinion is based.
  2. Whether experts use clear and consistent terminology in presenting their opinions.
  3. Whether experts present their testimony in a manner that accurately and fairly conveys the significance of their conclusions, including any relevant limitations of the methodology used.
  4. Whether experts explain the reliability of evidence and fairly address problems   with evidence including relevant evidence of laboratory error, contamination, or sample mishandling.
  5. Whether expert testimony of individuality or uniqueness is based on valid scientific research.
  6. Whether the court should prohibit the parties from tendering witnesses as experts and should refrain from declaring witnesses to be experts in the presence of the jury.
  7. Whether to include in jury instructions additional specific factors that might be    especially important to a jury’s ability to fairly assess the reliability of and weight to be given expert testimony on particular issues in the case.

The resolution is derived from a report which in part states:

"Many of the reported problems with forensic science evidence have resulted from the failures of trial attorneys to investigate thoroughly forensic science evidence, the misunderstandings of trial attorneys concerning the nature of that evidence and misstatements by trial attorneys concerning the weight to be attributed to that evidence.  Until an elevation in the knowledge base of trial attorneys is achieved, the adversarial system will continue to falter with respect to the proper presentation of forensic science evidence."

Below is a direct link to the 17-page ABA reference material which criminal defense investigators should consider reviewing. Among other things, it comments on the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Report on forensic science, along with cases such as Daubert:

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