A recently published study shows that many jurors decide verdicts based on their perception of the expert’s experience and qualifications – rather than their perception and understanding of the scientific rigor of the expert’s methods. Further, mock jurors in the live study did not place a higher weight on testing evidence in making their decisions, even when they were specifically told that the experts testing methods were not validated by science.
Given two expert witnesses – Jurors will often give more weight to the expert they perceive to more experienced – even when both are presenting similar testing results.
This study is a fascinating read! While this study focused on bite mark and fingerprint evidence – it seems logical that the same evaluation pathways used by the mock jurors in this study could be extended to fire cases, where some investigative techniques are not yet fully validated by science.
But, what does it mean for you and your fire case?
Get a solid expert, with great credentials, ample experience and the ability to connect with jurors. Then, you need to set up your expert to win, by emphasizing experience and credentials in your direct examination. Make sure your cross examination brings out any gaps in the experience of the opposing expert.
At Meier Fire Investigation, we make sure that our Fire Investigators have the training, skills and experience that a jury wants to see.
Koehler, J. J., Schweitzer, N. J., Saks, M. J., & McQuiston, D. E. (2016). Science, technology, or the expert witness: What influences jurors’ judgments about forensic science testimony?. Psychology, Public Policy, And Law, 22(4), 401-413. doi:10.1037/law0000103