The Impact of Expert Witnesses and Trial Consultants on Juries

All over the world, the jury is considered more humane and democratic compared to the traditional form of justice. The main distinction of the jury trial from the other forms of legal proceedings is in the fact that the decision on the guilt or innocence of the defendant is made by the board of non-professional judges, jurors, who are people without legal education. Therefore, the jury is sometimes called the court of people. However, it is a combined model of justice involving both the national and the professional element, the role of which is constituted by the jury as a whole. It means that the verdict is a result of the efforts made by both the jury and the professional judge presiding at the trial. The task of the jury is to decide on the guilt or innocence of the defendant after analyzing the evidences presented during the trial. There are many different factors that influence the decision of the jury. For example, expert witnesses and trial consultants have a significant impact on jury members in the court. The purpose of the paper is to study the influence of expert witnesses and trial consultants on juries.

According to the principle of immediacy, evidence brought during the trial should be the only basis of judicial decisions. Nevertheless, there are various factors that can affect the decision of the jury. Conventionally, all these factors can be divided into external and internal (Tanay & Simon, 2011). External factors include features of the case, the testimony of witnesses, their characteristics, the interrogation procedure, personal characteristics of the defendant and the victim, expert’s testimony, the activities of the lawyer and prosecutor, and the judge instructions. Internal factors are divided into socio-demographic and psychological. Socio-demographic characteristics primarily include the inherent personality characteristics, such as gender, age, race, ethnicity, the socio-economic status, education level, place of residence, and participation in jury trials in the past. The psychological characteristics embrace such features as the level of legal personality, the degree of authoritarianism, stereotypes and prejudices, as well as the emotional state.

The duties of expert witnesses and trial consultants are highly important in the judicial sitting. An expert witness is a person that gives estimation to things used in the trial (Levett & Kovera, 2008). A trial consultant is an expert that improves arguments, prepares witnesses, and selects juries (Levett & Kovera, 2008). The results of the conducted studies indicate that expert witnesses and trial consultants have a significant influence on the jury’s decision (Levett & Kovera, 2008). However, the extent of this influence depends on the particular features of these experts. Expert witnesses give characteristics to evidences provided during the trial. Thus, a certain understanding of the characteristics of things by the jury has a significant impact on the decision. With the help of the expert witness, people from the jury understand the operation of objects used in the case. The stated information gives the jury an opportunity to orient on the reliability of witnesses’ testimony given in front of them during the trial.

As shown by the empirical research, testimonies of expert witnesses and trial consultants have a significant effect on the jury’s decision (Tanay & Simon, 2011). In the book American Legal Injustice, it is written that “the impact of an expert witness is based upon his or her entire image – personality, style of testimony, and ability to stand firm under attack” (Tanay & Simon, 2011). In particular, testimonies of experts lead to a change in the degree of trust in the testimony of the witness. Besides, they also lead to changes in the probability of return proceedings. Expert witnesses and trial consultants influence the trust of the jury as a results of the identification procedure of the defendant. They lead to the reduction of the witness’s confidence in his/her testimony on the assessment of its accuracy by the jury. Consequently, it leads to less trust of the jury to person’s testimony who witnessed the crime. As a consequence, testimonies of expert witnesses and trial consultants lead to changes in relation to the crime. In the book Handbook of Trial Consulting, it is noted that “additionally, jurors usually recognize when an expert uses questionable logic or takes a position contrary to common sense” (Wiener & Bornstein, 2011). The effectiveness of their testimonies is determined by the degree, to which the jury understood their content, apply the learned principles and knowledge to the particular case, and distribute them to other similar situations in the future.

One of the ideas based on the role of jury is associated with higher objectivity level of the judgment made by the board of people not interested in the outcome of the trial and simply guided by the evidences provided during the trial. There are different factors influencing the decision of the jury. Some of them include individual characteristics of the jury members, specific features of the case, characteristics of the panel discussion in the conference room, as well as the nature of the testimony of witnesses and communication strategies used by counsel and prosecutor in the courtroom. Moreover, testimonies of trial consultants and expert witnesses are also extremely significant in the process. The jury pays close attention to the evidences of these experts as they can clarify the certain important aspects in the case.