What is an Expert Witness?

Wanda Draper is an internationally recognized author, teacher, and consultant. She has authored around 16 books including Your Child is Smarter Than You Think, The Caring Parent, and The Witness: Unfolding the Anatomy of a Killer. Aside from being a prolific author, she is also known for her reputation in the academe. She is a Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the College of Medicine, University of Oklahoma (OU). She also established the Early Childhood Development Center affiliated with the OU Health Science Center where she taught for over 20 years.

As an evidence of her credibility, Wanda Draper has been quoted globally in over 1500 articles and newspapers. She has also served as a reputable consultant, particularly for children and families. This includes court consultations and expert testimonies in capital trial, child custody, and child development issues. Her expertise has been largely used in over a hundred capital murder cases that she handled as an expert witness.

Now, the term expert witness may sound uncommon for some. Of course, everyone knows what an author or a teacher is. But when it comes to an expert witness, not everyone is quite acquainted with its definition and responsibilities. In essence, an expert witness is an important person in the legal field. They provide significant contributions to the endeavor to justice and truth. To know more about this noble role, this article provides a brief overview of what it means to be an expert witness.

Definition of an expert witness

By definition, an expert witness is a person possessing specialized skill sets whose opinion is acceptable in court because it may help a jury deduce and comprehend the factual evidence of a certain case. In other words, this person is permitted to testify at a trial because their knowledge, expertise, or proficiency in a particular field is relevant to the case. The service of an expert witness is particularly demanded whenever it is necessary to have opinion evidence to assist in the resolution of a conflict. Such opinion may then lead to an early resolution.

Various experts in a wide range of backgrounds may testify at trials. These experts are allowed to be compensated for the time and expenses they render in preparing for and giving testimony. However, it is their legal and moral responsibility to ensure that they are not being paid to perjure. The various kinds of expert witnesses commonly include medical experts, forensic experts, accounting and security experts, vocational experts, and more.

Qualifications of an expert witness

Experts are qualified to be witnesses at trials according to a number of factors including the amount of years they have practiced in their respective field; their work experience related to the case; their education, training, awards, certifications, licensing, published works, and peer recognition. In essence, an expert witness must practice in a relevant profession and possess specialized knowledge and skills in it in order to be admissible. They are only qualified to opine on a case if their professional knowledge and skill set will certainly assist the jury in understanding the evidence better.

Once listed as a witness for a trial, the materials that an expert witness uses to aid them in forming an opinion in the case is subject to disclosure for the opposing parties. The testimony is likewise subject to attack on cross-examination in the form of questioning. This is intended to extricate any limitations in the qualifications and experience of the witness, lack of preparation, or unreliability of the sources, tests, and methods utilized by the witness.

Responsibilities of an expert witness

An expert witness does not serve as an adviser to any of the parties involved in the case. Their responsibility is to provide an independent expert opinion in their field of expertise on the subject matter in accordance to the instructions given to them. Similarly, an expert witness is also not advocate. It is not their responsibility to argue the case of any party. The opinion that they provide in the form of a report or evidence before a Court is expected to be truthful, impartial, and independent.

As a professional deemed credible, it is the responsibility of an expert witness to ensure that their opinion is based only on foundational facts agreed upon by other experts in the same field. They must use accepted principles and methods that are common in the field, and they make sure that the application of these principles and methods is appropriate.

Overall, the journey towards justice and truth is often full of ambiguities, and it is for this reason that the service of an expert witness like Wanda Draper is called and demanded. Their expertise helps illuminates circumstances, facts, or matters that are otherwise complicated or incomprehensible without an expert opinion. Hence, it is safe to assert that the role of an expert witness is truly noble.

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