to the crime. In civil cases, most jurisdic-tions require proo o motive. In all civilcases, there must be evidence that inculpatesor connects the subject to the re.In the course o any trial, many dier-ent witnesses rom both sides will oer testi-mony and evidence. Most o those witnessesmust testiy only to rst-hand objective acts,but the rules o evidence allow or an expertwitness to render an educated opinion. In anarson case, there could be a number o ex-pert witnesses, including:
Fire scene origin-and-cause investigator
Fire protection engineer
Electrical, chemical, mechanical, orstructural engineer
Qualifying as an Expert
Beore an expert is allowed to pres-ent testimony and oer opinions aboutthe ultimate issues in a case, the court rstwill require the witness to demonstrate therequisite qualications as an expert in thateld. Te witness must show some specialknowledge or expertise in the eld that anordinary person does not possess. Troughbackground, experience, and training, thewitness must demonstrate that he possessesthe requisite skills to be accepted as an expertby the court. When this is done, the expertmay have to ace challenges to their quali-cations rom both the opposing attorney andthe trial judge.For many years, the rule in the U.S. wasthe so-called Frye est. Tis rule was adopt-ed by virtually every court and remained thestandard or admitting expert testimony ormore than 70 years. Under the Frye est, theexpert was required to show that his meth-ods and conclusions had gained general ac-ceptance in the specic eld o his expertise.So long as the expert employed methods thatwere sanctioned by other experts in the eld,the Frye est could be satised.In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Courtchanged the rule. It adopted the Daubertest, which charged trial judges with theresponsibility o acting as the gatekeeper o evidence in the courtroom to ensure that ex-perts who were testiying were using reliableand scientically sound methodologies. Tecourt suggested a our-part test or judges toemploy in determining whether an expertwas qualied under the Daubert standard.Te test included the ollowing:
Has the theory or technique beentested, using appropriate standards andcontrols?
Is there a known or potential rate o error or the theory or technique?
Has the theory or technique beensubjected to peer review by others in theeld?
Has the theory or technique gainedgeneral acceptance and recognition by others in the eld?In both civil and criminal arson caseswhere the Daubert test is now the law, thishas undamentally changed the way cases arebeing litigated. Now, an expert testiying inan arson trial must ace not only the oppos-ing side o the case, but the judge. An expert’sndings and conclusions today are givenmore stringent scrutiny than ever beore.At trial, the lawyer or district attorney oering the testimony o the expert willrst outline and establish the backgroundo the expert as shown on their curriculum vitae. Tis will demonstrate why the witnessshould be qualied as an expert by virtue o their technical expertise. Te other side willbe given the opportunity to cross-examinethe witness on those qualications, to sug-gest that the witness is not adequately trainedor experienced in the eld. In a Daubert ju-
Picking the Right Expert
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