The trial is an important part of a Utah Family Law court case. What you do during the trial will affect the outcome of your case. Don’t take chances. Hire the services of an experienced Provo Utah family lawyer.
A trial is in many ways analogous to a theatrical production. The parties, witnesses, judge, and even the court staff perform for an audience of jurors who will ultimately render the penultimate critique. Just as a Broadway play or musical cannot be staged until the director has assembled a capable cast and crew, a trial cannot proceed until the trial lawyer has identified necessary witnesses and prepared them to testify. The trial lawyer, like the director, can ill afford awkward gaps once the curtain rises. A seamless presentation is an absolute must, for there is no such thing as a “redo” when it comes to either a trial or a Broadway production.
In a civil trial, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof. The plaintiff’s attorney must introduce evidence establishing that the facts giving rise to his client’s legal claims are more likely to be true than not true. This burden of proof is sometimes referred to as the preponderance of evidence standard.
Testimony is typically provided by live witnesses at the trial. However, the testimony of an ill, deceased, or otherwise absent witness may also be presented via deposition or prior trial testimony. Fact witnesses, also known as percipient witnesses, testify about what they personally saw, heard, or smelled. They are not, in most instances, permitted to express opinions while testifying.
In contrast, expert-witness testimony is almost always presented in the form of an opinion. Expert witnesses rarely have personal knowledge of the underlying facts in a case. This is not to say that an expert is free to disregard the facts. Indeed, expert opinions are only permitted if they are rationally based on the facts and derived from analytic methods that are generally accepted by mainstream medicine and science. Percipient and expert witnesses play pivotal roles in every trial, but in my cases the testimony of a credible, well-qualified expert witness is frequently the deciding factor for many jurors.
If you believe your family law court case requires an expert witness to testify on your behalf, speak to an experienced Provo Utah family lawyer. The lawyer will review your case and chose the best expert witness for your case.
The Good Expert Witness
What constitutes a “good” expert witness? This is not as easily answered as you might think.
Inevitably, conflicting expert opinions will be presented during the course of a trial. It is, of course, the jury’s task to resolve such conflicts. Jurors are instructed that they need not accept the opinion of an expert. Rather, they can choose to believe all, part, or none of an expert’s testimony. An expert’s qualifications, biases, demeanor, and methodology figure prominently in such an assessment. It is therefore crucial that the trial attorney select expert witnesses who are not only well-qualified to render the opinions they impart to the jury but equally capable of withstanding the sometimes withering attacks leveled against them by opposing counsel.
A Bad Expert Witness
Just as it can be difficult to define what makes an expert witness good, it can be equally difficult to identify with any degree of precision that which makes an expert witness bad.
The bad expert typically is less qualified to speak on the subject, evinces a clear bias, appears combative, and frequently is poorly prepared. While a skillful attorney can highlight these weaknesses at deposition, the courtroom is the venue best suited to exposing a bad expert.
The “ugly” expert is nothing more than a really bad expert. Discerning a bright line between bad and ugly is, after all, a subjective call. Happily, the ugly expert is the rarest of exceptions to the rule
At time of trial, after all the evidence has been presented for both sides, there comes a time of closure when each side is given the opportunity to sum up what has been offered as evidence in its client’s favor and to remind the trier of fact what has been offered. These almost final steps in the trial are called closing arguments.
If you have accepted the request of someone you know to act as their expert witness in a Utah family law dispute, speak to an experienced Provo Utah family lawyer to know what to expect and what is expected from you. Once you accept the request of someone you know to act as their expert witness in a family law dispute, the next thing you know, a 20-pound, overnight-express box appears at your door filled with company records, deposition transcripts, medical reports, or other documents that “look legal” but have very little meaning to you at this point. Luckily, you will find a letter from your attorney/client that outlines the nature of your involvement in the case, and what questions you are expected to answer. This “yellow brick road” is, you hope, the tool that will guide you through the maze of paper and focus your attention on the most critical issues at hand.
In every legal case, each side attempts to persuade the trier of fact that their side is the true and righteous way. It is just like the evaluation of a future home: If the houses you consider vary in their structure and substance, it is easier to form your decision. The house constructed of straw and speculation is at one end of the spectrum while the brick and mortar structure is at the opposite end. The literature you cite, the examples from your experience that you relate, and the details of your specialized training are the bricks and mortar of your testimony. The straw house can be blown down with the weakest gust of wind, but the cross-examination hurricane makes little impression on the brick house built on a solid foundation of facts. If you were the jury, which one would you choose?
Have the confidence of your own self-worth! When you have expertise in a unique subject area supported by years of experience, the court will, more likely than not, judge you to be an expert. You certainly know a great deal more about your subject that a layperson or the average juror. Self-confidence is the key. Know your facts, support them with corresponding opinions of others, and explain your opinion like a teacher to students who now know you but don’t yet know your subject. The judge or jury should be considered anxious receptors-students for your teaching explanations of complicated technical concepts put before them. Trust in the trier of fact’s handling of your information, for she may pleasantly surprise you!
Many professionals have their own form of language and use it to communicate among themselves, yet seldom adequately communicate it well to those whom they serve; lawyers and doctors are notorious for this behavior. Never hesitate to ask the meaning of a question if you do not understand its terminology or if you find its form unintelligible. One of the most respectable answers to any legal question is, “I don’t know.”
If this is the first time you are entering a courtroom, you may be nervous. But there is nothing to be nervous about. An experienced Provo Utah family lawyer will tell you that the courtroom is a workplace, just like any other. The witnesses, lawyers, judge, bailiff, jury, clerk, court reporter, and others are doing their jobs. When you understand and appreciate those jobs, the courtroom will never again be an intimidation
The judge in the courtroom is king or queen of all that he or she surveys! With few exceptions, the progression of a legal case, from inception to verdict, will follow the strict guidelines of rules and codes set down over years of legal conflict. These rules and codes have evolved over years of court decisions coming down, in part, from English common law and through the American court system.
A very important rule that particularly applies differently to the percipient and the expert witness is called the hearsay rule. An expert witness unlike the regular witness can provide testimony on issues that known to him or her personally. Hearsay is basically second hand information. An experienced Provo Utah family lawyer can explain the Hearsay rule in detail to you.
The origin of the hearsay rule arose out of English common law and the case of Sir Walter Raleigh being tried for treason against the crown. His guilt was predicated upon testimony that someone else heard him saying that he would slit the king’s throat. This rule in essence banned hearsay testimony because it was not the direct and personal knowledge of the witness, as it was based on out-of-court statements overheard by someone else who then used those unreliable statements as a basis to try and convict Sir Walter Raleigh of treason.
A rule of evidence that is particularly important to experts relates to the handling of physical evidence. During the course of an investigation or case evaluation, you may be asked to examine an item that has a pivotal role in the case. When these items come to you, they should be accompanied by a form. This form should contain the item description and the details of the prior custodians of that item, and a date and time of release to you through a certified courier who transported the item in a manner that would not alter its state or condition (i.e., a box, container, wrapping, etc.).
If the originality or condition of the subject item is questioned, each and every signatory in the chain of custody will be called to testify or give declaration as to the integrity of the item while in their custody. This becomes far more important when the evidentiary item is alleged to have been tampered with. Therefore, it is important for an expert witnesses to maintain some form of evidence locker at his or her place of business that is secure from any outside access.
On occasion, a critical piece of evidence examined by one expert will be requested by an expert on the opposing side. The retesting may be just examination, or it may be some form of analysis. The testing parameters are usually cleared through the court, in the form of opposing motions, as to how and when the tests are to be conducted. One issue that usually pops up is whether or not the testing can consume a portion of the actual item. This type of testing is called destructive in that some of the actual item is consumed by the test procedure. When the testing can be done without altering the condition of the evidence it is described as non-destructive testing. Depending on the evidence item in question, gray areas arise that typically end up in the court requiring a hearing to learn more of what the testing entails.
The Impact Of Expert Testimony
In any legal action, foundation equals persuasion, and each of the two opposing sides attempts to persuade the trier of fact (the judge or jury) that its position is the correct one. In order to accomplish this, the pans on the scales of justice must be weighed down with persuasive expert- and percipient witness testimony that tips the balance. Each side orchestrates a parade of witnesses that will present their pieces of the evidentiary pie for the jury to weigh and then accept or reject. The weight given to testimony by the jury or judge depends on the quality and credibility of the evidence presented.
As an expert witness you play an important role in the case. You should seek the assistance of an experienced Provo Utah family lawyer and prepare for your testimony. It best to have an experienced lawyer assist you with your testimony although you are an expert. The court process is a complex one.
Provo Utah Family Lawyer Free Consultation
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506