During the course of a trial a jury must be able to understand and appreciate the complexities of both the crime and the methods used in solving the crime and also the scientific procedures used in aiding with the crime’s resolution.
What is an Expert Witness?
An expert witness is an individual who will be called upon by either the defence or the prosecution in order to give testimony to the jury that will be both informative and easily digestible. This expert witness will normally be a professor or doctor or a leading figure in their chosen field.
During the course of a trial an expert witness may remain under oath even after they have left the witness box so that they may be recalled at a later date to add further testimony or to provide further insights into their chosen area of expertise. Expert witnesses are normally required to give insights into such areas as:
- Neurological Disorders
- Personality Disorders
Methods of Presenting Evidence to a Jury
There are many different ways in which evidence can be presented to a jury in order for them to fully understand the nature of what they are being told or shown.
These methods may include the use of visual aids, video footage, still photographs, catalogued pieces of evidence (referred to as exhibits), audio recordings, transcripts of conversations that have taken place and also maps and handwriting.
Any of these methods may be employed during the course of a trial and depending on the nature of the trial – and indeed the severity of the crime – it may also be necessary for the jury to visit the scene of the crime.
Visiting the Crime Scene
If the crime being tried in court is that of murder – and in particular a series of particular brutal murders – then it may be necessary for the jury to visit the scene – or scenes – of crime to gain more of an understanding into the nature of the killings.
This normally happens in trials of so-called serial killers; a serial killer is defined as an individual- or individuals – who have committed a series of murders using the same Modus Operandi (MO) over a defined timescale. Serial killers are normally creatures of habit and can return to the scenes of their crimes more than once, thus showing the jury these crime scenes can – in conjunction with expert testimony – can assist the jury in gaining valuable insights into their character and their motives.
Video evidence is now employed in many courtrooms across the United Kingdom as a means of protecting not only the identity of those giving evidence but also as a means of saving money. Witnesses may not be able to attend a trial for a variety of different reasons but may be able to attend their local court where a video link will provide them with two-way audio and visuals of the trial proper.
Also evidence recorded onto video such as those films recorded on digital camera or video camera may be submitted to the court as evidence. In instances such as terrorists attacks such evidence is invaluable in order to build up a picture of what happened before, during and after such an attack took place.
Again it is worth noting that all evidence submitted for a trial must be relevant and should not be based on supposition or hearsay; circumstantial evidence as it is known is not reliable and therefore both defence and prosecution counsels are likely to ask for its exclusion from any criminal proceedings.