Volume 35, Issue 6 (November 1990)
The Expert Witness: Ethics and Responsibilities
While this paper is being written by a scientist in a specific disciplinary area, the comments to be made undoubtedly transcend that discipline and extend into other fields. As a matter of fact, nearly all of the points reviewed also have been articulated at one time or another by individuals from other areas of expertise. Hence, this effort is based as much on a kind of collective discomfort among expert witnesses as it is on the personal opinions of the author. In any case, the focus is on the problems of the expert witness in general rather than simply upon those difficulties uniquely experienced by a particular specialist. Five problems are addressed. They involve (1) the somewhat checkered legacy imposed upon the modern expert by his or her early counterparts, (2) the lack of specific forensic training for experts within their content disciplines, (3) the widely varying qualifications and professional training of current experts, (4) the pressures experienced by the expert, and (5) the conflicts of interest imposed upon them by the judicial system. Each of these problems presently affect expert witnesses; attempts to resolve or mitigate them would appear appropriate.