February 23, 2015

Becoming a Better Digital Forensics Witness Part 1

Attorney Craig Ball is a forensic technology expert witness. On his website, Ball in Your Court, he writes on his experience as an expert witness.

Becoming a Better Digital Forensics Witness

I love to testify—in court, at deposition, in declarations and affidavits—and I even like writing reports about my findings in forensic exams.

I love the challenge—the chance to mix it up with skilled interrogators, defend my opinions and help the decision makers hear what the electronic evidence tells us. There is a compelling human drama being played out in those bits and bytes, and computer forensic examiners are the fortunate few who get to tell the story. It’s our privilege to help the finders of fact understand the digital evidence.

This post is written for computer forensic examiners and outlines ways to become a more effective witness and avoid common pitfalls. But the advice offered applies as well to almost anyone who takes the stand.

It’s difficult for computer forensic examiners to hone their testimonial skills because it’s rare to be interrogated by a lawyer who understands what we are talking about. Most interrogators are working from a script. They know the first question to ask, but not the next or the one after that. Pushed off their path, they’re lost. Computer forensic examiners have it pretty easy on the stand. Computer-generated evidence still enjoys an aura of accuracy and objectivity, and the hyper-technical nature of digital forensics awes and intimidates the uninitiated. But, it won’t always be this way. Sooner or later, computer forensic examiners will square off against interrogators able to skillfully undermine ability and credibility. So, it behooves us to strive to be skilled witnesses.

The Trick to Being a Great Witness
Novice witnesses think there’s a system they can follow to stay out of trouble on cross-examination, but no battle plan survives an encounter with the enemy. There are no “tricks” to testifying, except to prepare carefully, listen to the questions asked, answer the questions asked, stick to what you know and tell the truth. The corollaries are, don’t imagine you can “wing it,” don’t anticipate the question, don’t answer the question you think the examiner meant to ask, don’t overreach your expertise and don’t try to snow the lawyers on technical matters.

It’s All About Preparation
Even brilliant, articulate and honest expert witnesses will perform poorly on the stand when they aren’t asked the right questions in the right way. Lawyers invest too little time preparing expert witnesses to present a compelling direct examination, and expert witnesses worry too much about cross-examination. Without a solid direct examination to lay out the key points, getting through cross-examination unscathed doesn’t count for much. There are many reasons why lawyers don’t spend enough time preparing expert witnesses: Lawyers and experts have demanding schedules, time spent with experts may be expensive and egos on both sides may not admit the need for preparation. Still, preparation for direct examination demands more than scripting a few questions and ad-libbing the rest.

The expert witness must help the lawyer understand what the digital evidence signifies and insure that the lawyer won’t stumble on the key terms and concepts. The lawyer must help the expert understand where the digital evidence fits into the overall theme of the case. Both must craft the flow and choreography of the direct examination, including what exhibits and demonstrative aids will be used and how to adapt when things don’t go according to plan (as when the court excludes an exhibit or demonstrative aid). There is no such thing as an over-prepared expert when it comes to direct examination.

Hypothetical Questions and Hearsay
In U.S. jurisprudence, there are two principal advantages afforded an expert witness. First, an expert witness is permitted to answer hypothetical questions; that is, questions where the interrogator lays out various assumptions and seeks the witness’ opinions based on those assumptions. Second, an expert witness is permitted to rely upon hearsay evidence when it’s the sort of information on which experts in the field customarily rely.

Some cross-examiners take their hypotheticals too far and require you to assume unreasonable facts. In that event, push back. Point out that you can’t express an opinion based on so implausible an assumption. Don’t be reluctant to say, “I saw no evidence to support that assumption.” Be wary of being pushed into offering opinions on hypotheticals incorporating elements outside your expertise and experience.

Just because you can rely upon hearsay doesn’t mean that you should. Unassailable opinions are constructed from reliable evidence. Try not to build your testimony on assumptions that may buckle. Always ask yourself, “Why do I take this to be true?”

Compound Questions
A cross-examiner may pose two questions as one, such that an answer to one sounds like an answer to both. When this happens, the lawyer who handled direct examination should object to the compound question; but, if the lawyer doesn’t object, it’s up to you to be alert and keep the record clear. Seek clarification of the question (e.g., “Are you asking me whether I hashed the images or if the hash values matched?”) or address each part separately (e.g., “Yes, I hashed the images, but the hash values did not match due to damaged sectors on the drive.”).

May I Explain?
Effective cross-examiners use classic techniques to control witnesses. They pose leading questions that suggest the desired reply. They avoid repetition of damaging testimony. They ask only questions to which they already know the answer. And they seek to confine witnesses to “yes” or “no” responses to keep witnesses from explaining their answers. Skilled cross-examiners do this so well, you will be like a horse in harness. But skilled cross-examiners are rare. You are more likely to face cross-examiners who will try to bully you into “yes” or “no” responses to questions that can’t be answered that way.

You have a secret weapon when this happens. You can ask, “May I explain please?” Opposing counsel hate that. They want to scream, “No, just say ‘yes’ or ‘no!’” But, they recognize that if you’ve been candid and cooperative, refusing to let you explain will make them look bad to the judge and jury. Like any secret weapon, it’s not very effective once the secret’s out. So, you can only do this once (or twice). Don’t waste it.

Craig Ball
Attorney and Forensic Technologist
Certified Computer Forensic Examiner

February 17, 2015

Business Expert Witness On World Economies Part 1

In Are We Nearing a Global Turning Point?, business expert witness Douglas E. Johnston writes:

Several important economic factors appear to be moving unfavorably for the US at the moment, both domestically and abroad, and there are increasing indications that America
may not be able to orchestrate a hoped-for global resurgence on its own. Despite
encouraging signs of domestic recovery, fundamental structural problems persist in the
US economy. The National Debt now exceeds $18 Trillion, the Department of
Agriculture confirms that well over 46 million Americans continue on food stamps, and
key voices have stepped forward asking for a deeper look at several U.S. economic

Last week long-time Gallup CEO Jim Clinton very boldly drew attention to the
government’s recent 5.6% unemployment numbers, questioning them as overly
optimistic interpretations of data, and noting on CNBC that the percentage of Americans
holding full-time jobs is now the lowest in 60 years. Former US Asst. Treasury Secretary
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts added more to the unemployment conversation recently when he
calculated that the true US jobless rate may reach nearly 23% after adding back several
categories of workers who have now given up looking for work. Several other media
sources including CBS Radio have reported that as many as a record 92 million
Americans may now be now functionally unemployed.

Adding to the domestic uncertainty, more pressing issues loom for the US internationally.
While the dollar is currently surging in value as a ‘safe haven’ investment, America faces
more than the usual normal number of unsettling issues abroad. From China to Russia to
India to Ukraine to Switzerland to Greece to Iran to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East,
the US may be facing potential developments with both allies and adversaries which
could displace the US from its lead role in international finance. The dollar has ruled
supreme internationally as the global-standard currency for settlement of most
international payments since the 1944 Bretton Woods global economic summit. But the
handwriting is on the wall for a change ahead, especially when considering the
emergence of Russia, India, China and the other BRICS bloc of countries. We should
make no mistake about it, the BRICS countries and many other long-time allies and
friends no longer view the US as unwaveringly as they once did. IMF Managing Director
Christine Lagarde has since 2012 noted several emerging ‘tectonic shifts’ in global
finance. Much groundwork has been laid in recent years by the BRICS toward a
‘tectonic’ realignment of the global currency markets and to de-emphasize the dollar as
the global currency of choice, especially including settlements for oil. The US has
steadily resisted this shift for decades, because allowing the world to bypass the dollar
could have profound implications for US influence in the world, as well as in the daily
lives of Americans as the cost of imported goods rises.

What are these emerging ‘tectonic’ developments and where are the current focal points
which might result in a global currency realignment and a shift in the dollar’s role? Here
are a few of the more notable global shifts as the US might see them:

· China quietly surpassed the US in 2014 as the world’s largest economy (per the
IMF) and it has steadily expanded its global trade plus the influence of the yuan
via scores of currency ‘swaps’ and bi-lateral trade arrangements with virtually
every major country & foreign central bank, plus all major US allies. The possible
displacement of the dollar as the sole global reserve currency could reduce or
even eliminate the huge advantage the US currently holds in funding its debt and
deficits through foreign markets. While the dollar still dominates global trade, the
Chinese have publicly stated their intention to have the yuan adopted as at least an
‘alternate’ reserve currency to replace and/or compete with the dollar. That time
appears now to be approaching even faster.

· Russia is now the world’s largest energy exporting nation. In 2014 Russia and
China signed over $400 Billion in long-term energy and trade pacts outside the
dollar, and China has recently signaled that it will backstop Russia if it needs help
in the face of US-led economic sanctions regarding Ukraine. For decades, this
kind of an economic alliance of China and Russia has been considered almost
unthinkable for the US, and numerous observers including Henry Kissinger have
characterized the emerging Russia-China alliance as one of the most significant
global geopolitical shifts in the past 150 years.

· The US-dominated IMF and World Bank have provided powerful support for US
foreign policy for decades, and yet the US has continued to withhold both new
funding and support for IMF reforms to accommodate the BRICS and others. In
July 2014 the BRICS bloc established its own $100 Billion Development Bank(s)
and other similar institutions to compete with the IMF and World Bank, and to
facilitate non-dollar finance and influence.

· Russia and the other BRICS nations have also been working steadily in recent
years to establish secure communications and wire-transfer networks outside of
the US-dominated and Belgian-based SWIFT system, in order to facilitate
banking and trade outside US influence. The new system is said to have begun its
first operational testing in late 2014, and full operations are expected in 2015.

· US-led economic sanctions against Russia over Ukraine have produced a military
and economic cold/hot war which threatens to deteriorate further, and with far reaching
trade implications. Europeans have so far generally chosen to follow the
US lead, but they have expressed reluctance to do so because: 1) Europe relies on
Russia for up to 25% of its own gas supplies, and 2) the US-led sanctions often
hurt European countries the most as Russia’s regional trade partners. Longtime
US ally Germany remains somewhat ‘in the middle’ as the economic powerhouse
of Europe, and yet some observers now believe German Chancellor Angela
Merkel, who speaks fluent Russian herself, many now be shifting her attention
toward the emerging Russia-China bloc. Highly-influential US-based Foreign
Affairs magazine has highlighted this issue in a key essay in its January-February
2015 issue: ‘Leaving the West Behind: Germany Looks East.’

· Following President Obama’s ‘Asia Re-Balancing’ visit to India in late January,
the Chinese followed with a February 2 summit in Beijing of the foreign ministers
of Russia, India and China to address India’s bid to join the Russia-China security
bloc. This follows India’s announcement in December 2014 of its plans to lease a
second Russian nuclear submarine. There is additional noteworthy data from the
World Gold Council and various central banks and sources indicating that Russia,
India and China (the ‘RICs’) have each steadily continued to amass gold reserves
in recent years. Reuters reports that two-thirds of global gold consumption now
comes from Asia, and newly-launched gold exchanges in Shanghai, Singapore,
Hong Kong and Dubai beginning in late 2014 may serve to shift dominance in
these markets which is currently held by London and New York.

· Iran announced in January 2015, after years of threats, that it has now dropped the
dollar for payments of its oil exports. In decades past, Iran’s many threats have
often been met by the deployment of yet another US aircraft carrier to the Persian
Gulf. Yet now, with the winds of broader global geopolitical change stirring, and
given the added complexity of ongoing negotiations with Iran on nuclear issues, a
real oil pricing currency shift may be at hand. The US has long been concerned
that Iran might be the ‘first domino’ of major Middle East oil-exporting countries
to drop the dollar, and related Arab state defections from the dollar remain a

· Saudi Arabia and Yemen experienced important regime changes in early 2015
which could similarly impact US influence in the Middle East. The long-festering
wars and unrest in Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Lebanon also pose renewed
potential challenges for the dollar and US interests in the region.

· Greece and its very significant $300 Billion external debt, long the outliers in the
20-nation euro bloc, might present Russia and its BRICS allies with a stunning
non-NATO geopolitical opportunity in 2015 by offering the BRICS a stronger
strategic and financial foothold in southern Europe. This emerging scene bears
watching very closely. As Stratfor geopolitical strategist George Friedman and
many others have long noted, European leaders (and more recently the US) have
shared a common interest for centuries in keeping huge and mineral-rich Russia
bottled up geographically and with limited access to warm-water ports. Germanled
euro austerity measures against Greece thus may need to be re-thought as the
long-suffering Greeks consider their emerging opportunity to switch to a new
economic sponsor and/or currency. Greece is a small country but it occupies a
unique strategic position at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
It could thus also play a major role in the emergence of new roles for the dollar,
euro, and yuan, and former US Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan recently furthered
the discussion by predicting that Greece would ultimately leave the euro bloc.

· Switzerland’s January 2015 decoupling of the Swiss franc from the euro has
underscored emerging problems in the euro currency, and spotlighting the
reluctance of euro powerhouse Germany to arrange additional bailouts for Greece,
as well as for the rapidly-weakening economies of Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Doug Johnston (through Five Management, LLC) is an expert witness in banking/lending
and an investigative business consultant specializing in Commercial Banking & Lending,
Private Equity, and International Banking. Early in his career he was named as the
youngest bank president in Texas, and thereafter he established multiple bank offices in
California and Texas. Expanding into Corporate Finance and Mergers & Acquisitions,
he became a ‘Founding Father’ of the largest private company in Los Angeles. As a C Level
executive, Doug has ‘hands-on’ debt and equity finance and documentation
experience with both lenders and investors involving hundreds of companies engaged in
technology, service, real estate, manufacturing, and entertainment across the US as well
as in Europe.

February 13, 2015

Internet For Lawyers CLE Seminars

Since 1999, Internet For Lawyers has provided law firms, corporations, corporate legal departments and local and state Bar Associations around the country with professional and entertaining turn-key CLE programs teaching legal professionals to use the Internet more effectively for business, legal and investigative research.

Company principals, Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch will present the following in-person Continuing Legal Education seminars during February and March. They also offer online quizzes for California Self-Study Continuing Legal Education Credit.

February 26
Cybersleuth's Guide to the Internet
Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI)
Philadelphia, PA

March 11
9:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Technology, the Cloud and Your Practice: A Day with Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch Webcast Series

9-10 AM
Power Your Practice with Google "Cloud" Gmail and Calendar Business Apps

How to Avoid Potential Ethical Traps While Using Social Media

12 Noon-1PM
“No Thanks, I'm Just Browsing” – A Non-Technical Introduction to the Chrome Web Browser

How the Internet Can Benefit Your Litigation Practice: Internet Legal Research on a Budget

Minnesota CLE Webcasts

March 12
Investigative Internet Research: Find It Fast and Free!
Minnesota CLE
Minneapolis Conference Center

About Internet For Lawyers - MCLE Provider

February 8, 2015

New Zoloft MDL Pharmaceutical Expert Witness

Zoloft MDL presiding Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, E.D. Pa., granted the plaintiffs motion to present a new pharmaceutical expert witness. Hundreds of Zoloft birth defect lawsuits have been filed. The antidepressant manufactured by Pfizer is tied to an increased risk of defects like persistent pulmonary hypertension in infants. Other serious side effects include seizures, heart defects, autism, and malformations of the skull or brain.

U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania website: About MDL 2342.
This Multidistrict Litigation ("MDL") was created by Order of the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ("MDL Panel") on April 17, 2012. The typical case involves claims by a plaintiff from anywhere in the United States against defendant Pfizer, Inc., and may name other defendants as well.

In its April 17, 2012 Order, the MDL Panel found that the actions in this MDL "involve common questions of fact, and that centralization in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation."

The MDL Panel noted that the actions "involve allegations that Zoloft, a prescription medication approved for the treatment of depression and other ailments, causes birth defects in children when their mothers ingest the drug while pregnant." Pfizer and the other defendants deny these allegations. The Panel further found that "[c]entralization will eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary."

Official contacts are as follows:

Presiding Judge: The Honorable Cynthia M. Rufe
Secretary/Civil Deputy: Velma T. White
Courtroom Deputy: Erica Pratt
United States District Court
Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Courtroom 12A
James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse
601 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Telephone: (267) 299-7490
Fax: (267) 299-5077

Plaintiffs' Liaison Counsel: Stephen A. Corr, Esq.
Stark & Stark, P.C.
777 Township Line Road
Suite 120
Yardley, PA 19067-5559
Telephone: (267) 759-9684
Fax: (267) 907-9659
E-mail: SCorr@Stark-Stark.com

Defendants' Lead and Liaison Counsel: Mark S. Cheffo, Esq.
Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
51 Madison Ave.
22nd Floor
New York, NY 10010
Telephone: (212) 849-7000

Plaintiffs' Steering Committee Co-Lead Counsel:
Dianne M. Nast, Esq.
NastLaw LLC
1101 Market Street
Suite 2801
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: (215) 923-9300
Fax: (215) 923-9302

Mark P. Robinson, Jr., Esq.
Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis, Inc.
19 Corporate Plaza Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Telephone: (949) 720-1288
Fax: (949) 720-1292

February 5, 2015

Medical Malpractice Expert Witness On Hiring An Expert

In The Biggest Mistake Attorneys Make When Hiring a Medical Expert, medical malpractice expert witness Dr. Honor Schoech writes:

I was recently hired as a consulting medical expert by a new client. The attorney was representing an elderly woman who was suing a nursing home for negligence. She needed me to review the case quickly for an upcoming deadline.

Before I received the medical records from this attorney, she sent me a summary of the facts. It was thorough and concise, and the medical terminology used was quite advanced. My initial impression was that I was reading a summary from a physician who had already been consulted on the case. I assumed that I was being hired for a second opinion, and that perhaps the original physician was unable to support her views.

When I discussed the case summary further with the attorney, I was surprised to find out that she had written the summary, and that I was the first physician to be consulted. I thoroughly reviewed the medical records, and it became obvious that she had spent a considerable amount of time meticulously reviewing these same records herself.

Here was the problem. After a thorough analysis of the medical records, I did not feel there was medical evidence to support her case. I did have another angle that I thought she could pursue. Unfortunately, there simply wasn’t time. She had a deadline looming in the near future. She had waited until the last minute to seek a medical expert, and the results were not in her favor.

I feel this is the biggest mistake made by attorneys when hiring a medical expert. They simply wait too long to locate, or once located, to engage a medical expert. This simple mistake can cost an attorney enormous amounts of time and money. Had I been consulted on the above case earlier, I would have been able to point out my hesitation with her approach and we could have tried to regroup and pursue a different angle.

Why is it that attorneys tend to wait too long to hire a medical expert? I think attorneys believe they will be able to find a medical expert quickly, but often don’t consider the time it can take to find the “best” expert. This can be a time consuming process, especially when you are not familiar with medical experts in a specific specialty.

I also think that many attorneys feel like they can and should be able to do the work themselves. That it simply isn’t necessary to hire a medical expert. These attorneys have likely been working on medical cases for years, and may feel competent in analyzing the medical records themselves. While this may be true, it isn’t necessary for an attorney to try to take on the role of medical expert. Doing so can result in significant wasted time and possibly misinterpretation of the records.

How early should a lawyer secure a medical expert for his or her case? Ideally, I think this should be done as soon as he or she decides to take the case. But remember that an attorney can secure a medical expert to help him or her decide whether the case has merit, too. If there is any doubt, I advise letting a consulting medical expert take a look at the records to help you decide. You could be working on something else during this time!

Getting an early read on a case can save you a lot of frustration, time and money. As addressed in the case above, your expert might not even feel that you have a case. You really don’t want this to happen after you have spent hours reviewing the records, which ultimately equates to wasted time.

Additionally, a medical expert can help you considerably to identify the issues if you do have a case. An expert medical witness can quickly spot where standards of care have been breached, if tampering has occurred, and how this is important for your case.

As you work through a case, a good medical expert can save you invaluable time. There are many tasks that you could spend countless hours on, which a medical expert will able to do more quickly and efficiently. (For example: literature searches, medical record review and organization, identification of missing records that need to be obtained.) Meanwhile, you could be working on more important things such as practicing law. Imagine that! You might even be able to take on more cases.

Don’t be afraid to secure a medical expert witness early on. Your expert can tell you whether or not you even have a case, and if you do, help you identify the pertinent issues. Start with a consulting expert ,who is cheaper, and then find a testifying expert later, if needed.

You will be shocked to find out how much time you can actually save, and this will allow you to more efficient, take on a higher caseload, and bring in a better income.

Read more: Dr. Honor A. Schoech
MediPro Solutions LLC

January 31, 2015

Marine Biology Expert Witness To Testify in BP Trial

British Petroleum expert witnesses will testify before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in an effort to lower the possible $13.7B fine as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP hopes to prove the damage was not as devastating as originally projected. Dr. John W. Tunnell Jr., marine biology expert at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, will testify regarding the spill's impact on fish, shellfish and birds in the Gulf of Mexico. The marine biology expert witness is Associate Director and Endowed Chair of Biodiversity and Conservation Science.

The Harte Research Institute website explains that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout was unprecedented not only because of the volume of oil that leaked from the well but also the location wehre the oil was escaping was almost a mile beneath the Gulf's surface, “creating problems with which responders had never before been confronted….”

During all previous spills the oil rose to the surface and drifted with the wind so modern oil spill response equipment and techniques have been designed to deal with that scenario. However, in the case of Deepwater Horizon, plumes of oil drifted with currents at various depths, settled to the bottom or dispersed throughout the water column making the use of skimmer ships, floating booms and controlled burns less effective.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is working on updating regulations on Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is proposing to amend and update current regulations regarding production systems and equipment that is used to collect and treat oil and gas from Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) leases. The proposed rule will address recent technological advances involving production safety systems, subsurface safety devices, safety device testing, and life cycle analysis. Production systems play a critical role in protecting personnel and the environment. This rule will help to reduce the number of production incidents resulting in oil spills, injuries and fatalities.

There are more than 3,000 facilities located on the OCS that are involved in the collection and treatment of oil and gas collected from oil and gas wells. These facilities range in size and scale from unmanned single well caissons to huge, manned deepwater facilities containing state of the art technology. All of the facilities contain equipment, sensing devices, and control systems to ensure that the oil and gas can be moved from the well to a pipeline in a safe and environmentally protective manner.

This proposed rule will revise 30 CFR 250 subpart H - Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems and make the first major changes to this section of the regulations since 1988. This regulatory action will ensure that the regulations are keeping pace with industry's recent technological advancements, which often rely of the use of equipment that is located on the seabed. These new technologies are more complex than those that were traditionally used for shallow water drilling on shelf areas, where safety equipment was traditionally placed on the rig itself, rather than on the seafloor. With the shift to deeper water in the past decade, more specialized requirements and regulations are required for these newer and emerging safety technologies.

January 24, 2015

Automotive Engineering Expert Witness & NTSB Investigations

An automotive engineering expert witness testified this week in the federal lawsuit two Minnesota families brought against Toyota. While the Koua Fong Lee and the Trice-Adams families argue that a defect with Lee’s Camry caused a deadly crash in 2006, Toyota says the accelerator pedal shows it was pushed down during the crash and that Lee mistook the brake for the accelerator.

Older model Toyotas were not included in the carmaker’s massive recall after sudden acceleration problems. Toyota was fined $1.2 billion in 2014 by the Justice Department after prosecutors said Toyota’s tried to conceal the problem of sudden acceleration in its vehicles. The case will go to the jury next week.

The National Transportation Safety Board is offering a new course for Legal Professionals, NTSB Investigations: What Legal Professionals Need to Know, to be held March 5-6, 2015, at the NTSB's Training Center in Ashburn, Va.

This two-day course will provide participants with the foundational knowledge needed to advise clients about the statutory framework that defines NTSB investigations, and the regulations, rules and practices NTSB follows in conducting its investigations. Emphasis will be on understanding the legal reasoning through facilitated and interactive discussions of issues that commonly arise during the course of NTSB investigations. Participants will also learn practical techniques to use when engaging with NTSB investigators, as well as important information regarding assistance to victims’ families.

Acting NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart is scheduled as a keynote speaker and participants will also have an opportunity to hear from NTSB attorneys and investigators, as well as attorneys from prominent law firms and aircraft manufacturers.

Registration is now open for the course. Tuition rates increase after February 3, 2015. The registration link for the course is available on the course page:

The NTSB will provide the information required to obtain Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit from participating states.

Information about the NTSB Training Center, course registration information and a complete listing of all public courses offered is available at:
NTSB Training Center: 571-223-3900

Contact: NTSB Public Affairs
490 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20594
Keith Holloway
(202) 314-6100

January 20, 2015

Child Abuse Expert Witness Testifies In Case Against Texas Teacher

Psychologist and child abuse expert witness Dr. William L Carter testified in the Waco, TX, case against Sergio Bezerra. The former Waco Baptist Academy teacher was convicted of abusing two students in 2008 and was sentenced to 80 years in prison. Four young women testified that Bezerra molested them. Dr. Carter did not evaluate the victims but described how the abuser brings victims into abuse, many times starting with favoritism.

Protocols involved in a Child Sexual Abuse Forensic Interview are discussed on the Forensic Pediatrics Experts - Child Abuse & Child Safety website:

General Protocols
Child Forensic Interview Expert Analysis Components
An objective assessment of a forensic interview involving a child who reports sexual abuse is a prudent component of quality improvement and assuring proper procedures were followed. A poor interview does not discount the possibility of sexual abuse. However, the format and process of the forensic interview have been developed to minimize leading questions and ensure as accurate a history as possible.

The interviewer of a child or adolescent presenting with concern for sexual abuse or sexual assault should remember the following principles:
audiotape or videotape the interview, if possible;
use a minimum number of interviews (perhaps two or three), as multiple interviews may encourage confabulation;
avoid repetitive questions, either/or questions, and multiple questions, and try to avoid leading and suggestive questions;
use restatement, that is, repeat the child’s account back to the child (which allows the interviewer to see if the child is consistent and ensures that the interviewer understands the child’s report)

Child Sexual Abuse Forensic Interview Process and Protocol
conduct the interview without the parent present (if the child is very young, consider having a family member enter the room and separate thereafter;
if a camera or microphone is present, inform the child that people responsible for making them safe may be watching, but that no family member is observing the interaction. Only investigative team members should be observing a forensic interview;
use an examination technique that is appropriate to the child’s age and developmental level, such as drawings and play re-enactment;
determine the child’s terms for body parts and sexual acts; do not educate or provide new terms

Content of a Child Sexual Abuse Forensic Interview
A forensic interview should not take the form of an interrogation. Note the child’s affect while discussing these topics and be tactful in helping the child manage anxiety. Young children may not be able to report all of the relevant information and disclosures commonly emerge over time. The examiner should explore the following:
whether the child was told to report or not report anything;
what relationship the child has to alleged perpetrator was;
what the alleged perpetrator did;
where it happened;
for multiple occurrences that are reported, when the abuse it started and when it ended;
number of times the abuse occurred;
if and how the child was initially engaged and how the abuse progressed over time;
if and how the alleged perpetrator induced the child to maintain secrecy;
whether the child is aware of specific injuries or physical symptoms associated with the abuse;
whether any photography or videotaping took place.

Read more: Forensic Pediatrics Experts - Child Abuse & Child Safety

January 17, 2015

Handwriting Expert Witness On Forensic Document Examination

In When is a Handwriting Expert Not a Handwriting Expert? handwriting expert witness Dennis Ryan of Applied Forensics, LLC, writes:

A handwriting expert is not a handwriting expert when they are called on to examine aspects of a document that do not require a handwriting examination. Most handwriting experts are actually Forensic Document Examiners (FDE’s). The expertise of a Forensic Document Examiner goes well beyond the examination and comparison of signatures, hand-printed or handwritten items. The Forensic Document Examiner (Handwriting Expert) can examine documents to determine if they are forged. For example, our FDEs have examined documents associated with a vintage automobile sale. The documents that were produced in the sale of the automobile were the window sticker, the bill of sale and other related documents. The price of the automobile was increased by a hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) when these documents were used in the sale of the automobile. Our examiners determined that the documents were fraudulent because they were produced using a color laser printer/copier. The documents appeared artificially aged.

The Forensic Document Examiner (handwriting expert) can also examine documents to determine the method of production of the document. Was the document produced by a typewriter, dot matrix, ink jet or laser printer? Does the document have a signature on it which appears original but is in fact a color laser copy of the signature and not the original inked signature? Does the ink jet printer have a defect that can identify the specific printer used to create the document?

A Forensic Document Examiner may also examine alterations, additions and deletions. Our office has examined documents ranging from medical treatment records to standardized school testing records for evidence of alterations, additions or deletions. The alterations are not always evident without a close examination using infrared imaging technology. Our examiners have examined hundreds of state standardized tests and have found, on occasion, the answers have been changed from an incorrect answer to a correct one.

The Forensic Document Examiner (handwriting expert) also does indentation analysis. An examiner could, for example, determine why handwritten initials from page one of a multi-page document do not appear on page two of the document, but the initials appear on the remaining pages of the multi page document. The answer could be that an alternative version of page two has been substituted. In another case, our office compared indentations from a 2008 document and those of a document dated 2014 which provided a clue in dating the document in question.

The Forensic Document Examiners (handwriting experts) in our offices have been asked to examine photocopied documents to determine if the copies are mechanical fabrications. Another term for a mechanical fabrication is a “cut and paste”. With the accessibility of desktop publishing so prevalent in today’s society, a “cut and paste” can be done with relative ease with only a computer and a scanner. A “cut and paste” can be very rudimentary or very sophisticated, it all depends on the time and effort one wants to put into creating the document.

As one can see the handwriting expert does not always fulfill the role of handwriting expert. The Forensic Document Examiner commonly referred to as a handwriting expert, conducts a myriad of examinations on documents called into question.

Applied Forensics
is a state of art laboratory of certified Forensic Document Examiners with offices in New York, Maryland, Boston, Connecticut, and North Carolina. Document examinations are provided in the following areas: handwriting, typewriter, photocopies, alterations, obliterations, erasures, and paper exams.

January 11, 2015

Food Safety Expert Witnesses & Bidart Bros Recall

Food safety expert witnesses may consult on food borne illnesses, food handling, restaurant industry standards, and food poisoning. This week Bidart Bros. expanded an apple recall to include all granny smith and galas shipped from its Shafter, Calif., facility after two strains of Listeria monocytogenes were confirmed in the apple processing plant. The bacteria are believed to be the same ones associated with the 2014 outbreak that killed seven people and sickened many more. The recall first targeted packaged caramel-coated apples but the recall has been broadened to all shipments of Bidart Bros. Granny Smith and Gala apples.

On 1/10/15 CDC.gov posted:

CDC is collaborating with public health officials in several states and with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis) linked to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples. Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness.

People at higher risk for listeriosis include adults 65 years or older, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women.

On January 6, 2015, Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, California voluntarily recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples because environmental testing revealed contamination with Listeria monocytogenes at the firm’s apple-packing facility.

On January 8, 2015, FDA laboratory analyses showed that these Listeria isolates were indistinguishable from outbreak strains by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE).

Listeria isolates from whole apples produced by Bidart Bros., collected along the distribution chain, were also indistinguishable from outbreak strains by PFGE.

Consumers should not eat any recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples produced by Bidart Bros., and retailers should not sell or serve them.

Consumers who are buying or have recently bought Granny Smith or Gala apples can ask their retailers if the apples came from Bidart Bros.

Consumers should not eat commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that were recalled or made with Bidart Bros. apples, and retailers should not sell or serve them.

Happy Apples, California Snack Foods, and Merb’s Candies each announced a voluntary recall of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples after hearing from Bidart Bros. that there may be a connection between Bidart Bros. apples and this listeriosis outbreak.

Consumers who are buying or have recently bought commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples can ask their retailers if the apples came from Bidart Bros.

Consumers who are unable to determine whether their commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples were made with Bidart Bros. apples should throw them away.

As of January 10, 2015, a total of 32 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes had been reported from 11 states.

Thirty-one ill people have been hospitalized, and seven deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to at least three of these deaths.

January 7, 2015

School Security Expert Witness On School Shootings Part 2

In Ten Lessons Learned From the Sandy Hook School Shootings, school security expert witness Ken Trump, MPA, President of National School Safety and Security Services writes:

Our team’s analysis of the Sandy Hook Final Report released by the Connecticut State’s Attorney continues with 10 key lessons learned for school security and emergency preparedness. While additional details may be revealed in forthcoming documents from the Connecticut State Police, 10 important lessons from Sandy Hook have emerged based upon the final report, information shared with us by individuals involved with the incident, and other published reports:

6. Assess physical security at each school due to unique designs and issues. The classrooms where children and staff died at Sandy Hook had connecting doors in the walls. Restrooms inside the classrooms helped as places for young children to lockdown. Each school district is unique and schools within each district are unique, requiring building-specific assessments and actions as appropriate to identify strengths and areas of concern.

7. Strengthen communications capabilities and create redundancy. The ability to activate the PA from multiple locations was helpful in alerting others of the shootings at Sandy Hook. As noted in Chuck Hibbert’s blog article this week, Connecticut State Police radios did not work inside the school. Have redundancy in communications in the event “Plan A” fails.

8. Recognize and address the elephants in the living room: Mental health, home dysfunction, weapons, violent videos, etc. These are largely home and community issues that must be recognized, acknowledged and addressed by parents and the community.

9. Think and act cognitively, not emotionally; and measured, not knee-jerk — and related to this lesson:

10. Stay focused on proven, tested and reliable best practices. Experienced school safety professionals, psychologists and many educators have expressed concerns since December of 2012 about far too many emotionally-driven ideas and actions based upon what people believed occurred at Sandy Hook. Bulletproof backpacks, bulletproof whiteboards, vendors and consultants pushing expensive classroom surveillance cameras activated by individual teacher panic alerts, software developers providing lockdown or shooter notification apps (that could result in not only first responders rushing to the school, but also undesired onlookers like the NY man who went to Sandy Hook to see what was going and got detained by police), and others have jumped into the fray with questionable proposals.

Many schools rushed to fortify their front entrance doors, failing to recognize that the Sandy Hook shooter shot out the glass next to the doorway, not in the actual doorway. Some mistakenly have downplayed and/or dismissed lockdowns as effective tools. Others have encouraged students and staff to evacuate and run anywhere and everywhere possible, which in the case of Sandy Hook appears to have adversely impacted police from getting inside the school once they arrived.

Teaching children and teachers to throw things at, and to attack, armed gunmen is another flawed theory put forth with greater emphasis after Sandy Hook. Yet the Sandy Hook principal and psychologist were instantly killed while moving toward the heavily armed gunman. The staff member who was near them and got shot went back into the conference room, locked down and lived. Students who locked down, even inside the inner classroom restrooms, survived. Classes on both sides where the shootings occurred quietly locked down and survived.

More lessons may follow, and some amendments to the above may be needed, with the release of additional documents. But for now, based upon what is known, the above lessons remind us to focus on proven, reliable best practices.

, M.P.A., is President of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based national consulting firm specializing in K-12 school security and emergency preparedness training, school security assessments, school emergency planning consultations, school security officers and school police issues, and related school safety, violence, crime and crisis consulting services.

January 2, 2015

Explosions Expert Witnesses

Explosions expert witnesses may consult regarding explosives, flammable materials, combustion, and related matters. In the news, fireworks manufacturer Entertainment Fireworks has been fined following a fatal explosion in June 2014. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries investigated the accident and concluded that safety violations and improper training contributed to the explosion which killed one worker and injured two more.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives website contains detailed safety precautions in the use and storage of explosives.

Explosives Safety and Security
Federal explosives law and regulations provide requirements and standards for the secure storage of explosives materials. To maximize the effects of regulatory compliance, the following voluntary suggestions, developed in partnership with the International Makers of Explosives (IME) and the International Society of Explosives Engineers, may serve as a helpful guide for securing explosive materials.

Storage Requirements
The Federal explosives regulations at 27 CFR, Part 555, Subpart K, outline the storage requirements for explosive materials. Section 555.205 specifies that licensees and permittees must keep all explosive materials in locked magazines meeting the standards in Subpart K unless they are:
In the process of manufacture;
Being physically handled in the operating process of a licensee or user;
Being used; or
Being transported to a place of storage or use by a licensee or permittee or by a person who has lawfully acquired explosive materials under Sec. 555.106.

When none of the above conditions apply, this section mandates that you keep explosive materials in magazines that meet the construction and table of distance requirements of Subpart K. Any divergence from these requirements requires prior approval by the Director, ATF, in accordance with the provisions of 27 CFR, Part 555.22. Persons with questions on this issue should contact the Explosives Industry Programs Branch in ATF Headquarters at 202-648-7120 or through e-mail (EIPB@atf.gov).