The United States Supreme Court cautioned a generation ago that “[e]xpert evidence can be both powerful and quite misleading because of the difficulty in evaluating it.” In recent years, the legal community has become increasingly aware of the deficiencies with forensic evidence presented in the courtroom, yet the reliance on such evidence is increases. As such, defense lawyers need more than ever to have the ability to understand such evidence and challenge it to effectively represent their clients.
In 2009 the National Academy of Sciences issued “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.” It is a scathing report on the state of forensic sciences in the courtroom. The criticism was directed towards the so-called experts who were doing faulty analysis using junk science techniques, the prosecutors who were introducing this evidence at trial, the judges who were letting the testimony into evidence, and the defense attorneys who were not adequately challenging the proposed evidence to keep it out. Things have not improved since 2009. In April of 2015, the Department of Justice (DOJ), FBI, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project released a joint report showing that the majority of the FBI’s examiners from its microscopic hair comparison unit gave flawed testimony in almost every trial in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants. There are countless examples of faulty forensic evidence being used to convict people. Criminal defense lawyers cannot sit on their hands and continue to let this happen.
In 2009 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts that the prosecution could not prove the identity of suspected drugs by introducing a certified lab document and needed to call the chemist who did the analysis to testify at trial. Since that ruling, expert witnesses are required to be called in even the most basic district court drug cases. As such, you cannot afford to have a lawyer uncomfortable or ill-prepared to challenge alleged scientific evidence even in the most basic case. I not only have extensive experience handling expert witnesses in many different fields, but I also lecture extensively to lawyers teaching them what to do when facing an expert witnesses. I have lectured for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Middlesex Defense Attorneys, and the Greater Lowell Bar Association on confronting expert witnesses in hearings and at trial. I have developed a particular expertise in challenging the wide array of experts and so-called experts in drug cases and I regularly get calls from attorney throughout the state about their cases. When criminal defense lawyers have questions about their drug cases they call me. I encourage you to do the same.
It is important that you hire a lawyer who knows how to challenge expert witnesses and to use them to your benefit. Your case may have testimony about DNA, accident reconstruction, or drug analysis. I have tried many cases in which I successfully cross-examined the government’s expert witness and have called my own expert witness. In a motor vehicle homicide trial, for example, I successfully convinced a jury of twelve that the wet road on which my client was speeding was so inherently dangerous in its design that her failure to stay within the designated lane of travel, which resulted in a single car crash that killed her passenger, was not the result of negligent driving but was truly an accident. This victory required calling my own expert – a highway design engineer – and successfully cross-examining an engineer from the Department of Transportation as well as a motor vehicle reconstruction expert.