Tips on how to be an Effective Expert Witness
By: Steven Babitsky, Esq.
Judge Gregory P. Holder of the Florida 13th Judicial Circuit speaking at the SEAK National Expert Witness Conference presented some tips on how to be an effective expert witness.
Here is what he said about direct examination:
- Preparation and organization
- You are a “teacher” on the stand; be likable, human, honest, entertaining and energetic
- Do not advocate or “talk down to the jury”
- Keep it simple and understandable
- Remember that you have a very diverse jury pool
- Summarize what you are going to tell them and then what you told them
- Direct examination questions
- Rehearse with the attorney
- Don’t read from a “script”
- Acknowledge problems with your analysis
- Derail difficult issues.
- Avoid long narrative answers (Jurors and Judges have a limited attention span)
- Use strong confident language and do not quibble.
- Define terms that are not commonly understood.
- Use visual aids
- A picture is truly worth a thousand words
- Sit forward and turn and talk to the jurors
Judge Holder then discussed how experts can excel during cross-examination:
- The opposing attorney asks “leading” questions
- Calling for yes or no response
- Court will allow you to explain your yes or no answer
- Discredit or impeach your direct testimony
- Gain favorable testimony to help his/her client
- Attack of your opinions and methodology
- Listen carefully and clarify if necessary
- Admit if you do not know the answer
- Do not stray beyond the limits of your expertise
- Do not become defensive or argumentative
- Admit to your fees
- Jurors know that you are paid for your “time”
- Attack credentials of the expert
- Show bias of the expert
- You are an expert and not an advocate; act like one
- Impeach the expert with prior inconsistent statements
- Watch your prior publications, they will be used in cross examination
- Keep your cool
- Stick with the facts of the case
- Review documents carefully before answering if the question refers to documents
- Refresh your recollection if necessary
- Ask if you do not understand
- Generally, the jury starts out like you — do not ruin it!
- Avoid anger when someone questions your opinion
- Be patient during the questioning – walking the jury through your analyses takes time
- Carefully consider compound questions
- Strike back if the opportunity presents itself
- Don’t let the attorney interrupt your answer to her/his questions
The 22nd Annual National Expert Witness Conference will be held on April 27-28, 2013 in Chicago, IL.