Why do people hire expert witnesses during criminal trials?

On Behalf of | Aug 15, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Those who have never had any involvement with the criminal justice system may have an overly simplistic idea of what going to trial involves. They imagine that they will hire a lawyer and that this attorney will handle every aspect of their case.

However, criminal defense attorneys often recommend that their clients also consider working with other specialized professionals. Specialized expert witnesses are often invaluable additions to someone’s defense team. These professionals often work in highly-scientific fields and charge for their services during criminal proceedings. Why would someone pay for an expert witness as part of a defense strategy?

They want to undermine state evidence

Sometimes, an expert witness can help convince a judge or a jury that the state’s evidence is not accurate or useful. For example, in a situation involving enhanced photographs or video footage, a digital forensics specialist could explain how the extrapolation process used for enhancing images is prone to failure and could potentially lead to enhanced images not actually based on what the original image contained. Other times, they may want to raise questions about types of evidence that are no longer considered reliable, like 911-call analysis. An expert witness can teach the courts about cutting-edge science and help show why the state’s evidence isn’t conclusive proof of someone’s guilt.

They want to re-evaluate state evidence

Perhaps the state already hired forensic experts to review genetic materials or crime scene information to build the case against a defendant. There have been many cases in which forensic specialists or laboratory professionals make mistakes. An expert witness could explain how the laboratory deviated from best practices regarding how they handled or processed certain evidence. They could also provide an alternate analysis that might suggest there is a different person to blame for the incident. Even in scenarios where the evidence itself is viable, an expert’s analysis could drastically alter whether or not it effectively connects someone to criminal activity.

Typically, a lawyer will give someone their opinion about different defense strategies once they have reviewed the evidence that the state will use in court. Considering every option for countering criminal allegations may give someone the best chance at success during their trial.