As legal cases increasingly rely on defense experts online witnesses to provide scientific data and evidence, defense attorneys are tasked with finding reputable experts. Attorneys are encouraged to research their potential experts as thoroughly as they would a State’s witness that they are preparing to cross-examine.
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Attorneys can find a variety of information about their potential experts online. Many experts list their professional history and prior testimonial experience on their CVs, while other professionals may author scholarly articles on topics related to their field of expertise. Attorneys can also find a range of information about their prospective experts by conducting general searches through databases such as LexisNexis, Westlaw and Fastcase.
A lapse in an expert’s license is often an easy-to-miss mistake that can disqualify him or her from testifying. However, some judges may choose to overlook such a minor error if it is discovered at trial. The risk of such an error is higher for indigent defendants, who are entitled to the assistance of a qualified expert under Michigan law and a number of United States Supreme Court decisions.
To ensure that their clients are receiving the most competent assistance, indigent defendants should have an expert review their case and determine the extent of expert assistance necessary to prepare a defense. Such reviews are required under the Indigent Defense Commission’s Core Policy and Standardized Travel Policy. Moreover, a review of an expert’s challenge history is important for indigent defendants and their counsel to conduct before retaining the expert.