Criminal Defense Attorney Explains: Using and Cross-Examining Forensic Experts
Forensics is not limited to the sciences, though many forensic experts work in the sciences. Forensic experts may be retained to analyze almost any type of evidence and explains its significance to those working within the judicial system. A criminal defense lawyer may utilize forensic experts specializing in criminalistics, pathology, serology, photography, ballistics, odontology, botany, psychology, and toxicology, among others.
Credentials of Forensic Experts
A forensic expert usually possesses an advanced degree, such as an M.D. or a Ph.D. in his particular field. He is, however, more than an individual with an impressive resume. He has usually worked for years or decades within his chosen field and possesses a basic to advanced understanding of the legal system, including the relevant legal standards. While a forensic expert must be able to explain the complexities of the evidence in plain, understandable – and sometimes persuasive – language to juries, he should not be an advocate for either side. Indeed, an ethical forensic expert’s only allegiance is to the truth.
To testify on behalf of either the defense or the prosecution, the forensic expert must satisfy the judge that he possess the necessary credentials to offer an opinion on the evidence. Forensic experts are the only witnesses – or participants in the trial – permitted to offer opinions. In contrast, though lawyers are allowed to argue the facts, they prohibited from offering personal opinions on the evidence or the guilt or innocence of the accused.
How Criminal Lawyers Utilize Forensic Experts
Though an attorney may retain to a forensic expert to testify at trial, forensic experts provide a variety of services to lawyers. For example, a criminal defense attorney may employ a forensic pathologist to determine whether the medical examiner conducted a proper and thorough autopsy and correctly identified the cause of death, and/or assist him with the preparation of his cross-examination of the medical examiner. Criminal defense attorneys often fail to fully utilize forensic experts in their pre-trial preparation, choosing instead to wade into battle with the government’s experts essentially unarmed. An experienced and tough forensic expert will absolutely humiliate an unprepared, inept, or foolish cross-examiner. In his best selling book, Kevin J. Mahoney teaches criminal defense lawyers how to strategically cross-examine government forensic experts without falling into the traps that typically claim less accomplished trial lawyers.
Our Experience with Forensic Experts
At the Mahoney Criminal Defense Group, we have worked extensively with some of the nation’s most respected forensic experts in the fields of pathology, criminology, toxicology, botany, photography, ballistics, arson investigation, and psychology. The experts we have retained have proven instrumental to our trial successes. Without a comprehensive understanding of the complex forensic evidence that the government intended to introduce at many trials we would have found it very difficult to combat the government’s experts.
The Information Provided on Our Website
The forensic information we include on our site is provided as a public service. These articles are not dissertations, but pithy summaries. For a more complete description of the areas covered, readers should read the books and articles referenced at the end of some pages, as well as the latest materials on the particular subject matter, or consult with a forensic expert.
Contact a Cambrige, MA Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been accused of a crime, contact us at 617-492-0055 to schedule a free in-office consultation with one of our Cambridge, MA criminal defense lawyers.