Need to pick an expert witness? How do you do that? What’s most important?
Experience? Experience testifying? Materials written? Track record testifying?
Yeah, all that’s good, and should be considered. But what’s
most important? What will impress the jury most?
Honesty. I’ll never forget one of my early jury trials when the jury
was filing out for a recess, at the conclusion of my expert’s testimony.
Two of the jurors stopped at the witness stand, held out their hands,
and thanked him for his testimony. Why did they do that?
I thought much about this afterwards. He was not a smooth, debonair witness
with expensive clothing. He did not testify for a living. In fact, the
subject of his testimony was a study he had completed because he had an
interest in the effects of strip mine blasting on nearby homes. Several
times during his testimony he had to answer “I don’t know.”
Several times he said that his study didn’t address the question
proffered. He didn’t try to persuade, he merely told that jury what
they needed to know, and what they didn’t need to know.
I think they knew he was honest.
How do you determine an expert’s honesty? Many times, you just can’t
do it…but try. I ask my potential expert about references, and
then call them. I call all lawyers who have used him before. I even call
lawyers who have cross-examined him. In other words, investigate. I don’t
rely upon his or her resume. After all, have you ever seen one which says
Not only does this help to win the case, but it also makes for better sleep
at night. After all, trials should not be just about winning; it’s
winning with integrity.
Oh, and thanks went to Dr. Eugene Carden of the University of Alabama.
If you didn’t know, we won.