ExpertWitnesses and Trial Consultants
Anexpert witness is perceivable as a specialist in an issue. Thisindividual may be called upon to present his expert view withoutnecessarily being a witness to any event that relates to the criminalcase or lawsuit (TheFree Dictionary, 2016). Psychologists must establish theircredentials before being qualified to become expert witnesses (Bartol& Bartol, 2011, p. 140). In essence, one must have an advanceddegree, practical experience in the area that he will be testifying,and certification or licensing if relevant. Trial consulting, on theother hand, can be defined as the use of social scientists byattorneys to present criminal proceedings. Trial consultants,typically, have masters and doctoral degrees in sociology,psychology, law and other related fields (Rosenfeld,Penrod, & Rosenfeld, 2011). The concept psychological impact canbe defined as the effect that an environmental or biological factorhas on an individual`s moral or social traits (Oliveira, Buchain,Vizzotto, Elkis, & Cordeiro, 2013). Expert witnesses and trialconsultants have different roles in the courtroom however, thepsychological impacts that these specialists have on juries issignificant.
Trialconsultants help to bring demonstrative evidence to bear. Lawyersusually find identifying the appropriate information for convincingjurors perplexing (Wiener & Bornstein, 2011, p. 403). Lawyersoften use complex terminologies during proceedings this may bar themembers of the jury from following the trial effectively. Trialconsultants find ways of making the information that will bepresented before the courtroom relatable to an outside party (juror).These experts bring psychology to the fore. In some cases, jurorsshould be treated as students. Since these parties have differentlevels of understanding, using different modes of presentinginformation, for example, the use of pictures to explain a particularscenario, will hasten the learning process. If essential, trialconsultants can use focus groups to test a myriad of demonstrativeevidence materials. This approach will establish the mode ofpresentation that best fits the jurors of a particular case. Mostly,trial consultants look for ways of identifying the jury`s most commonobstacles to understanding the evidence. Experienced consultants areequipped with knowledge of the manner in which the tribunal can beguided around all potential hurdles.
Theconfidence of expert witnesses has been documented to influence thedecisions that jurors make. Confidence, in this regard, means thelevel of demonstrable self-assurance that an expert witness portraysin his general capability on the stand (Willis-Esqueda and Bornstein,2011, p. 44). Witnesses low in confidence exhibit nonverbal andverbal cues of nervousness. Examples of such conducts include fixedeye contact and a quivering voice. Although some experts with hightrust in the information that they are furnishing the court with maydisplay particular behaviors, which can be associated withnervousness, their assurances in scientific or professionalcapacities enable them to minimize the manifestations of such cues.Speech configurations affect the discernment of confidence.Persuasive speech has been associated with social status and highconfidence. Mock jurors have been documented to regard persons withpowerful speech as truthful, more convincing, trustworthy, andintelligent. Formal statements have also been forwarded as anindication of a more compelling, qualified, and smart personalitywhen compared to hyper-correct style. Simply put, expert witnesseswith anxious nonverbal and verbal cues are linked with lowconfidence.
Thepersonality traits of jurors may also be used to gain insights intohow they are likely to interpret the information that is presented tothem (FETOUH & LAND, 2014, p. 3). Demographic variables such aseducation, gender, and occupation, in addition to traits such asphysical appearance, communicative ability, and credentials, havebeen proven to have a positive correlation with jurordecision-making. Prior juror experience and age also come into playin influencing the viewpoints of jurors. The five-factor model hasbeen advanced as a conception of personality structure. The fiveinfluences include extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, opennessto experience, and conscientiousness. Neuroticism is manifested in anindividual’s level of emotional stability, revealed in the form ofdepression, impulsivity, anxiety, or anger. Extroversion is concernedwith a person`s predisposition to seek external stimulation it isassociated with facets such as gregariousness, positive emotions, andexcitement seeking. Openness to experience is linked to intellectualacumen and includes fantasy, openness to ideas, and aesthetics.Agreeableness reveals an individual`s interactional disposition.Finally, conscientiousness integrates self-control in various forms,for example, being determined, organized, and disciplined. Studies onthe FFM factor traits show a definite link between extroversion andthe amendment of decisions after reflection, in support of theplaintiff. Also, jurors who are high in openness are less likely tobe influenced by their peer jury members while those high inconscientiousness are prone to be affected by their colleagues.
Connectedto the above, Harrison, a Texas civil defense lawyer, contends thatheavier persons make better plaintiff jurors. Thinner people,conversely, make better defense jury members. Overweight people aremore likely to be followers in a court setting(Willis-Esqueda& Bornstein, 2015, p. 138). Also, the material that an individualis reading can help one develop a conclusion about the person`spredisposition to reach a particular verdict. An individual readingthe Wall Street journal is more likely to make a better defense jurorwhen compared to a person reading a romantic novel. Although juryselection is not the primary activity that trial consultants engagein, it is closely linked with the profession. The panel`s reliance onspeculation, in the courtroom, reveals the significance of expertwitnesses. The American Society of Trial Consultation availsinformation to the public domain via the ATSC online publication.
Expertwitnesses and trial consultants have the capacity to persuade jurorsto view events differently. The credibility of expert witnesses, forexample, has been proven to influence jurors to consider the “experttestimonies” (Parrot, Neal, Wilson & Brodsky, 2015, p. 69).Studies reveal that expert credibility and knowledge have a positivecorrelation with influencing the conclusions reached by third partydecision-makers and disputing parties. The past years have observedan escalation of the importance of expert witness credibility insentencing recommendations and verdicts in both civil proceedings andcriminal trials with potential, mock, and real jurors. On the otherhand, trial consultants work with law firms to bring the major issuesin cases to the fore, determine whether the case has been exposed toexcessive pre-trial publicity, ready witnesses for trial, and adviceon jury selection.
Expertwitnesses also supply courtrooms with technical knowledge, which maynot be available to a lay audience (Horne & Mullen, 2013).Experts are usually encouraged to avoid tailoring the informationthat they provide the court with. Lawyers are allowed to use theinformation that is availed by the expert to substantiate theircases however, manipulating the specialists to satisfy the ends ofthe lawyers is prohibited. Experts have varying opinions regardingparticular scenarios thus, the credibility of the witness will playa significant role in determining the influence of the observer inthe court (Parrot, Neal, Wilson, and Brodsky, 2015, p. 69).Influences such as trustworthiness and confidence, in addition toexpert knowledge, are mandated by courts in the rules of evidencethat govern the acceptance of witnesses as experts. Studies revealthat the sanctioning of an expert witness by a court may serve as aninvestigative approach to trying facts. However, the same approachmay result in heightened feelings of skepticism and distrust, becausethe witness may be viewed as a “hired gun.”
In a recap of the above discussion, expert witnesses and trialconsultants have different roles in the courtroom however, thepsychological impacts that these specialists have on juries issignificant. Expert witnesses are perceivable as professionals onparticular issues. These persons may be called upon to present theirexpert opinions without necessarily being witnesses to any occurrencethat relates to the criminal case or lawsuit. Psychologists mustestablish their qualifications before being recognized as expertwitnesses. Simply put, individuals must have advanced degrees,practical experience in the area they will be testifying, andcertification or licensing if relevant. Trial consulting, conversely,can be viewed as the utilization of social scientists by attorneys topresent criminal proceedings. These persons, characteristically, havemasters and doctoral degrees in sociology, psychology, law and otherconnected fields. As revealed in the above discussion, trial expertsand expert witnesses impact the decisions made by the juriessignificantly. These parties can persuade the members of the jury toview occurrences differently, depending on the perceivablecharacteristics of the witnesses or the judges.
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Rosenfeld,B., Penrod, S., & Rosenfeld, B. (2011). Researchmethods in forensic psychology.Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.
Oliveira,A., Buchain, P., Vizzotto, A., Elkis, P., & Cordeiro, D. (2013).Psychosocial Impact. SpringerNew York,1583-1584. Retrieved fromhttp://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-1-4419-1005-9_919
Parrot,C., Neal, T., Wilson, J., & Brodsky, S. (2015). Differences inExpert Witness Knowledge: Do Mock Jurors Notice and Does ItMatter?, 43(1),69. Retrieved fromhttp://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1036&context=publicpolicyfacpub
TheFree Dictionary. (2016). Expertwitness. TheFreeDictionary.com.Retrieved 2 September 2016, fromhttp://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/expert+witness
Wiener,R. & Bornstein, B. (2011). Handbookof trial consulting.New York: Springer.
Willis-Esqueda,C. & Bornstein, B. (2015). Thewitness stand and Lawrence S. Wrightsman, Jr. (p.138). Springer.