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In Brief: Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 269 Dated: March 2012 Pages: 24-25
Date Published
March 2012
2 pages
Publication Series
This article presents an overview of the content of a new self-paced, online training course from the National Institute of Justice, "Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert," which provides guidance for forensic specialists in preparing to give testimony in court.
The development of this training course follows the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, which held that defendants have a right to cross-examine forensic laboratory analysts in criminal cases. The online course has 13 modules. The modules address sources of scientific evidence; report writing and supporting documentation; the importance of case preparation; the difference between subpoenas and promises to appear; affidavits; being a court-appointed expert; discovery; general testifying tips; depositions; pretrial procedures; trial procedures; post-trial presentencing; and ethics for experts. This article presents an overview of some of the content of the course, presenting summaries on "The Role of a Forensic Expert" and "Tips for Testifying in Court." The summary of the role of a forensic expert addresses the importance of following standard lab protocols and procedures when testing evidence, organizing testing information and conclusions into reports that can be understood by laypersons, and following court procedures of discovery by sharing the testing evidence to members of the opposing side. The outline of tips for testifying in court focuses on being knowledgeable about rules of evidence and the subject matter of one's field, as well as the procedures and findings of testing related to the case. Other tips about testifying are to be organized, answer questions promptly and clearly, remain calm under cross-examination, and adhere to the ethical standards of objectivity and integrity. 2 notes

Date Published: March 1, 2012