March 31, 2007

Gang Expert Allowed to Testify in Illegal Immigration Trial

As reported in Pennsylvania's Times Leader, U.S. District Judge James Munley allowed gang expert witness Jared Lewis to testify as an expert witness at a Pennsylvania trial regarding the Illegal Immigration Relief Act. Lewis testified that the gang named "MS-13" had a presence in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and was one of the most dangerous gangs in the world.

Lewis was allowed to testify even though he had minimal law enforcement experience, did not include any published authoritative works in his resume, and his expert report did not include any information based on gang statistics specific to the area. The court found that his area of expertise is not an area about which many authoritative books have been written.

Mike Cutler, a retired agent from the former U.S. Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services, is expected to testify as an expert witness for the defense, and is also expected to be the final witness in the trial.

March 30, 2007

Learning the Subject Matter is the First Step to Researching Experts

A preliminary understanding and some basic investigation of the topic of expertise will allow the researcher to know what questions to ask the potential expert witness, and may also lead to the names of good potential experts in that field.

Library web sites are an excellent place to begin the search to find information about the subject matter and to find potential experts. Start by searching their online catalogs for books and journals on your subject. Pay particular attention to whom the author/authors are – someone who writes extensively on the subject you are researching may make an ideal candidate to serve as an expert in your case.

Note that many library web sites allow the researcher to search their catalog for specific topics. For example, a basic search on the Library of Congress’s web site using the term “handwriting identification” will return hundreds of books and other publications written by potential handwriting expert witnesses. These results include not only the potential expert’s name, but also the title and date of publication, where it was published, and cross-references to other works by that author. Such information can be used to find, or cross examine, an expert.

March 29, 2007

Expert Witness Marketing Myth #3 - Marketing By Word of Mouth is Sufficient

A number of expert witnesses do not market because they believe that attorneys market their qualifications for them to the legal community by word of mouth. With everything an attorney does all day in dealing with the tremendous expectations from clients and the stress of billable hours, do you really want to rely on attorneys to market for you? Do you want your business development to be out of your control and in the hands of lawyers? Do you think attorneys have your curriculum vitae at their fingertips to discuss your qualifications? Do you think attorneys have the time to convey your qualifications? Being a lawyer is daily, fast-paced drudgery in a precarious profession. Lawyers have enough on their plate without having to concern themselves with marketing your services. A wise expert realizes that attorneys only make money when they are working on items they can bill to a client; marketing your services is not a billable event. If you want to maximize your profits as an expert witness, do not rely on attorneys to make your qualifications known by word of mouth.

March 28, 2007

Judge Grants Continuance in Sex-Crime Case When Experts Not Paid

Montana District Judge Stewart Stadler granted a continuance request to continue a sex crimes' trial in part because the defense attorney had not yet paid for his expert witnesses.

As reported in the The Daily Interlake, former Children’s House Montessori administrator David Farr is accused of sex crimes against five boys. Farr's attorney Jack Quatman said he hired Philip Esplin as a child sexual abuse expert witness who is “uniquely qualified to testify in cases in which Wendy Dutton testifies for the prosecution.” Dutton will be a prosecution witness.

The court surprisingly allowed the case to be continued believing that Esplin’s schedule, and the volume of material he must review, meant he could not be prepared without a continuance. Quatman said he could find no other expert witness.

Quatman also said he hired Stephen Guertin, a forensic pediatric expert witness from Minnesota, after the evidentiary hearings. He also is not available for trial.

March 27, 2007

Handwriting Experts Battle Over JonBenet Ramsey Ransom Note

Handwriting experts will square off in Virginia federal court over allegations that one stole the other's analysis of the JonBenet Ramsey ransom note.

As reported in the Virginia Pilot:

Cina L. Wong, a forensic document examiner with an office on Granby Street, is seeking to stop author and handwriting expert Michelle Dresbold from holding up the ransom note analysis as her own. Wong also wants unspecified monetary damages.

In the suit, filed Monday, Wong submitted hundreds of pages of her analysis of the ransom note and says it is nearly identical to what Dresbold published in her book, "Sex, Lies, and Handwriting." Wong concluded that JonBenet's mother wrote the note.

The lawsuit also seeks to stop Dresbold from making those claims over the public airwaves. According to Michelle Dresbold's website, she has appeared on numerous television programs.

March 26, 2007

What Will Become of the ALM Expert Witness Directory?

American Lawyer Media (ALM), which runs the ALM Expert Witness Directory, is reportedly for sale. According to the Business Wire:

Wasserstein & Co., LP [ALM's owner] announced that it has retained Credit Suisse as its exclusive financial advisor to assist it in exploring various strategic alternatives for its investment in ALM, including the possible sale of the company.

It will be interesting to see the price that is paid for ALM if it sold since its primary asset is its magazines and newspapers. Best known for its legal publications, ALM currently owns 34 national magazines, including "The Legal Expert Pages" print directory. ALM also runs an expert witness directory on Law.com. It is unknown what will happen to its online expert witness directory if ALM is sold. The online directory had changed names from "NLJ Experts" to "ALM Experts" in 2005.

March 25, 2007

Software Experts Likely to Play Major Role in Oracle v. SAP

Oracle said Wednesday that it has sued software expert SAP "about corporate theft on a grand scale" seeking undisclosed damages. Oracle also argues that the theft formed the basis of SAP's "Safe Passage" program, which is designed to entice Oracle customers to switch to SAP.

As alleged in the complaint:

Oracle brings this lawsuit after discovering that SAP is engaged in systematic, illegal access to – and taking from – Oracle’s computerized customer support systems. Through this scheme, SAP has stolen thousands of proprietary, copyrighted software products and other confidential materials that Oracle developed to service its own support customers."

This case will likely be a battle of software experts, intellectual property experts, and computer expert witnesses. Vinnie Mirchandani, who testified for Peoplesoft during its suite against Oracle during the hostile takeover process, said in his blog that the suit "a sad day for the industry...I saw the two sides spend $250 million in legal fees. Customers suffered as both sides were distracted for a long time."

March 24, 2007

Bootprint Expert Testifies in 11 Year Old Murder Case

A Canadian shoe impressions expert witness was allowed to testify in a South Carolina murder trial regarding bootprints made at the scene 11 years ago. Crime scene expert Robert Kennedy said foot impressions made inside the insole of a pair of low-top boots were similar to test impressions made by the defendant Jeffery Jones. This is the second trial for Jones after his original guilty sentence was overturned.

As reported in the South Carolina's The State:

[Forensic expert] Kennedy, who retired last June after 40 years with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was a fingerprint expert, tire track expert, and footprint expert before 1989, when he began studying the impressions feet make inside shoes.

Continue reading "Bootprint Expert Testifies in 11 Year Old Murder Case" »

March 23, 2007

Do Expert Witness Standards Affect Payouts?

Payouts for medical malpractice claims remain lower in Oregon than in all but seven other states, despite the loss of a cap on damage awards in 1999. What is interesting is that Oregon also does not have standards for expert witnesses to testify.

As reported in the The Oregonian:

The findings come from one of the first studies that attempts to gauge the effects of various malpractice reforms that states have adopted, mostly to cut costs...Expert witness standards made the most difference in number and size of payouts.Some states require expert witnesses to practice or to have training in the type of medicine under scrutiny in the lawsuit. These laws had about three times to four times the effect of caps on damage awards, researchers concluded.
Oregon does not have expert witness requirements, but eight of the 15 states with the lowest malpractice payments had such requirements. Only two of the 15 high-cost states had expert witness standards.

March 22, 2007

Expert Witness Marketing Myth #2 - Marketing Hurts My Credibility

Some expert witnesses believe that their professionalism is affected if they make it known that they are available to be retained as an expert witness. For example, many fear embarrassment or a loss of credibility when it is revealed on cross-examination that they market their services.

In reality, the judge and jury just don't care about your marketing. On cross-examination, attorneys will not risk alienating a jury by delving deeply into your marketing, and judges frown upon such a line of questioning. Good cross-examination is short and hits hard. Attorneys are going to concentrate on two things in their limited amount of time to cross-examine an expert witness: the fact that you are a paid witness, and any inconsistencies in your prior testimony. Even these issues can be quickly defused on direct examination. You, of course, can point out that you are paid for your time, and not for your testimony. Lawyers are simply not going to gain ground with a jury by pointing out that you make your services available to the legal community through marketing.

March 21, 2007

Utah Expert Allowed to Testify Regarding Woman's Body

Fourth District Judge Samuel McVey will allow the prosecution to use an endocrinology expert witness to explain the female body in a case involving sexual abuse.

Dr. Larry Andrew is on trial for allegedly inappropriately touching patients during infertility treatments. The defendant has said he massaged the patients genitals to relive pain. The prosecution has argued that the defendant did this soley for sexual gratification.

As reported in the Utah Daily Herald:

"[Judge] McVey said it would not be unusual to bring in an expert witness to testify about a woman's body, to inform the jury. He said it would be like bringing in an auto mechanic to inform a jury about a carburetor of a car, if the case was about where a car was touched.

McVey ruled that the prosecution will be able to use Jones as an expert witness to explain the female body, as well as the trial transfer procedure Andrew was performing as an infertility doctor and discuss that it is usually not painful.

The trial begins on March 20, 2007.

March 20, 2007

Idaho Supreme Court Allows Neurosurgeon to Testify

The Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court and allowed neurosurgery expert witness Dr. Edward Smith to testify in a case involving a woman who fell into a coma after receiving an infusion of chemicals through a catheter instead of an intravenous line due to a nursing error. Weeks vs. Eastern Idaho Health Services.

The Idaho Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Gerald Schroeder, noted that Dr. Smith was a neurosurgeon of considerable experience. He therefore qualified as an expert witness, the court decided.

As reported in Legal Newsline:

"The district court erred in failing to admit Dr. Smith's testimony as to the mechanical effects of the infusion because he based his testimony upon sound scientific principles," Schroeder wrote.

"It also erred in holding that Dr. Smith's testimony was not admissible regarding the chemical effects because the adverse effects can be inferred from the facts known to Dr. Smith," Schroeder added.

The case was remanded.

March 19, 2007

Is Daubert Unfairly Stifling Expert Witnesses?

Prior to Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, the courts allowed scientists to play gatekeeper by deciding what was good science--permissible in the courtroom--and what wasn't. However, in 1993, the Supreme Court ruled in Daubert that judges and not scientists should not be the ultimate arbiters of the quality of science.

Many argue that since Daubert, respected expert witnesses (especially chemistry experts, pharmaceutical experts, toxicolgy experts, and other scientists) have seen their legitimacy questioned, even rejected, by judges who may know very little about the subject. Critics of Daubert argue that some plaintiffs, especially those in toxic tort cases, might find it harder to win their case against large corporations without having scientists who can testify on their behalf.

Continue reading "Is Daubert Unfairly Stifling Expert Witnesses?" »

March 18, 2007

Expert Witness Marketing Myth #1 - Marketing is Unnecessary

This first myth is only true if you, as an expert witness, do not want to get retained. Out of sight is out of mind and, for the expert witness, out of work. Being an expert witness necessarily means that you market yourself. When the attorney hires an expert, he or she is doing so on a promise. The attorney cannot see a potentially effective trial presentation. The attorney searches for what he can see now. That attorney wants to know if you are available, and seeks information about your qualifications, experience, and abilities. Thus, expert witness marketing is everything a professional does on a regular basis in the process to educate and demonstrate to the legal community why that expert should be retained. The key words are everything and regular.

Two very good reasons why you should market your services:

1) Legal professionals cannot hire you if they don’t know about you.
2) Your competitors are marketing.

Continue reading "Expert Witness Marketing Myth #1 - Marketing is Unnecessary" »

March 17, 2007

Handwriting Expert Testifies Regarding "Disguised Writing"

The New York Press Republican reported that expert witness testimony was allowed from a handwriting expert regarding disguised writing samples:

A prosecution expert witness testified Thursday that accused murderer Edward Dashnaw tried to disguise his handwriting in samples given to police. Dashnaw is charged with the December 2005 stabbing deaths of David and Lorraine Donivan of Schuyler Falls.

Continue reading "Handwriting Expert Testifies Regarding "Disguised Writing"" »

March 16, 2007

Court Allows Immigration Expert Witnesses to Testify After Deadline

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Times Leader reported that a federal court will allow an immigration expert witness to testify in case involving the Hazelton Pennsylvania Illegal Immigration Relief Act.

As stated in the news report:

The trial, which begins on Monday, will determine the constitutionality of the city’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act, which seeks to punish landlords and employers who knowingly rent to or hire illegal immigrants.

The city was issued a win in pretrial motions on Sunday when [Judge] Munley ordered that the city can have an expert witness – Jan Ting, a professor of law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law – testify in the trial.

Continue reading "Court Allows Immigration Expert Witnesses to Testify After Deadline" »

March 15, 2007

Being Honest About Your Qualifications as an Expert Witness

"Honesty is the best policy" is a cliche, but it is the most important element in the attorney-consultant relationship. It is much better to reveal a shortcoming to retaining counsel than to try to bury the facts. With the variety of online tools available, even the most casual of legal researchers can unearth information about an expert witness' background, qualifications, and expertise.

There was a story about an expert who was retained on a high profile case. The attorney had given the expert witness the usual admonition about disclosing any potentially damaging information to the attorney before the depositoin. The expert said that there was nothing to hide.

At the expert's deposition, the opposing counsel started with the usual background questions. When the attorney asked the expert a series of seemingly innocuous questions about about the expert's addresses, the expert froze. Much to the dismay of the retaining attorney, the expert stopped the deposition. Once outside the conference room, the expert said to retaining counsel, "I didn't tell you. My previous address was San Quenton jail."

Continue reading "Being Honest About Your Qualifications as an Expert Witness" »

March 14, 2007

Verifying Expert Witness Licensing

The story of the ballistics expert who killed himself after being confronted with evidence that he had lied about his credentials illustrates the importance of researching experts before they are retained.

Licensing information can be found online and is easily searched to verify the currently-held licenses claimed by an expert. Many organizations, such as the American Board of Surgery, have their own websites where one can check the licenses of experts. Search Systems links to over 35,000 public record databases. By running a search for the type of record (license), the jurisdiction (e.g.: Ohio), and the occupation (e.g.: accountant), the user is given a list of databases where the licensing information can be found. Using the metasite Portico , one can verify licenses for occupations such as doctors, contractors, architects and more.

March 13, 2007

Police Expert Lied About His Credentials

The Baltimore Sun reports that police procedures expert Jospeph Kopera killed himself after being confronted with evidence that he had lied about his credentials. This revelation could force new trials for some of the hundreds of people he helped convict.

As reported in the Baltimore Sun:

Joseph Kopera, head of the Maryland State Police firearms unit, claimed on witness stands to have degrees that he never earned, state police acknowledged yesterday as they began notifying prosecutors and defense attorneys across the region of their findings.

As a firearms examiner - first with the Baltimore Police Department and then the state police - Kopera collected and then analyzed bullets, shell casings, weapons and other forensic evidence. Given the length and breadth of Kopera's work, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys alike said yesterday that the implications of the investigation could be tremendous, with the analysis of every bullet and every weapon that has passed through Kopera's crime laboratory called into question.

This tragedy unscores the necessity for both the retaining attorney and opposing counsel to verify the qualifications of expert witnesses. Tips on researching experts will be upcoming in this blog.

March 12, 2007

JurisPro's Expert Witness Blog Debuts

The attorneys and marketing staff of the JurisPro Expert Witness Directory have launched the ExpertWitnessBlog. This blog will focus on information pertinent to attorneys, consultants, and other legal professionals concerning expert witness subjects. These topics will include expert witness marketing, news about experts, Daubert challenges, expert witness testimony, and upcoming events of interest to experts and lawyers.