The Art and Science of Expert Witness Testimony
A Multidisciplinary Guide for Professionals
Featuring in-depth interviews of attorneys, judges, and seasoned forensic experts from multiple disciplines including psychology, medicine, economics, history, and neuropsychology, The Art and Science of Expert Witness Testimony highlights and offers bridges for the areas where the needs and expectations of the courtroom collide with experts’ communication habits developed over years of academic and professional training.
Rather than seeing testimony as a one-way download from expert to jurors, The Art and Science of Expert Witness Testimony focuses on the direct, dynamic, unique communication relationship that develops as each juror’s lived experience interacts with the words of experts on the stand. This book expands the academic tradition of "methods-centered credibility" to also include "person-centered credibility," where warmth, confidence, and relentless attention to detail build trust with jurors. Seasoned forensic experts share what they actually say on the stand: their best strategies and techniques for disrupting traditional academic communication and creating access to science and professional opinions with vivid, clear language and strong visuals. The difficult but necessary emotional work of the courtroom is addressed with specific techniques to regulate emotions in order to maintain person-centered credibility and keep the needs of jurors front and center through cross-examination.
This innovative compilation of research is essential reading for professionals and practitioners, such as physicians, engineers, accountants, and scientists, that may find themselves experts in a courtroom. The Art and Science of Expert Witness Testimony provides a unique experience for readers, akin to being personally mentored by over eighty-five attorneys, judges, and seasoned experts as they share their observations, insights, and strategies—not to "win" as a defense, prosecution, or plaintiff expert, but to be productive in helping jurors and other triers of fact do their difficult intellectual job in deciding a case.
Table of Contents
1. Expert Witnesses Have a Direct, Dynamic, and Unique Relationship with Each Juror 2. Person-Centered Credibility in Expert Witness Testimony 3. Setting the Truth on Fire: Disrupting Traditional Academic Communication Patterns During Expert Witness Testimony 4. Planning Direct Expert Witness Testimony 5. Social Communication During Expert Witness Testimony: The Language Behind Our Words Matters 6. Maintaining Person-Centered Credibility on Cross-Examination is Difficult but Necessary Emotional Work 7. Expert Witness Testimony During Depositions 8. Training to Improve Expert Witness Communication Skills Appendix: Some Really Great Metaphors, Analogies, And Succint, Accessible Explanations
Karen Postal is a past president of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology and a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School. Her research focuses on improving the ability of academically trained professionals to communicate with the general public. She is the author of Feedback That Sticks: The Art of Communicating Neuropsychological Assessment Results and Testimony That Sticks: The Art of Communicating Psychology and Neuropsychology to Jurors.
"The Art and Science of Expert Witness Testimony is a must read. Dr. Postal examines a diverse literature and collates fascinating stories by seasoned experts, judges and lawyers to remind us that effective expert testimony requires more than substantive expertise. Rather, experts must understand the jury as active participants in the courtroom, not as passive recipients of information. Trials, in this sense, are dialogic, collaborative, and iterative, not sterile classroom lectures. Most important, Dr. Postal explains that language is more than words. Experts communicate in many ways, including how they dress, walk to the witness stand, and how well they manage a variety of other non-verbal communications. Dr. Postal skillfully marries the substantive and performative in providing a groundbreaking descriptive account of what makes an effective expert witness." —Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., Harvard Law School, USA
"A master class for expert witnesses in understanding the various needs and perspectives of each player in the unfolding courtroom production." —The Honorable Judge Ed Washington, II (retired), USA
"Meticulously researched and filled with a vast number of verbatim contributions from all the players in the courtroom context, this follow up to Testimony that Sticks addresses thoroughly the personal relationships of experts to jurors, attorneys and judges—an area often scanted in discussions of forensic functioning. It is difficult to imagine a more extensive discussion of this critical subject." —Thomas Gutheil, MD, Harvard Medical School, USA
"Neuropsychologists receive extensive training on how to conduct assessments, derive conclusions, and present findings in a written report. But virtually no hands-on education is offered regarding how to package our findings in a way that is useful and compelling to juries. In her book, The Art and Science of Expert Witness Testimony, Dr. Postal makes the case that the presentation style and manner of the 'messenger' (i.e., expert witness), and not just our scientifically-grounded 'message,' require careful focus and consideration. She offers the perspectives of multiple judges, attorneys, and neuropsychological expert witnesses as to what constitutes effective testimony, including how to make one’s testimony vivid and memorable, such as through use of metaphors and analogies to convey complex statistical and other concepts to juries. She discusses how to recognize, and manage, the emotions that are provoked when opinions are attacked in cross-examination, and how to 'reframe' cross-examination questions as an opportunity to help clarify our opinions for juries. Ultimately the book feels like sitting down with seasoned mentors who have provided access to their cumulative experience in navigating the legal arena." —Kyle Boone, PhD, Alliant International University, USA
"As a forensic pathologist my world revolves around a courtroom. Sadly, training in expert testimony is lacking and I’ve often wished for a concise guide. Karen Postal, through her detailed interviews, has filled that gap. Karen has provided the playbook for scientists and lawyers needed to deliver powerful, effective, and honest testimony." —Peter Cummings, MD, Boston University, USA