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What is an expert witness?

Your defense attorney in Virginia may enlist the assistance of an expert witness to support your case and assist the jury in making a decision. Either a prosecutor or a defense attorney may call an expert witness, and expert witnesses have participated in both criminal and civil proceedings. 

According to Cornell Law School, an expert witness may give testimony on matters beyond the understanding of an ordinary juror, but his or her testimony is not limited to such matters. What is important is that the subject matter lies within the area of expertise. To qualify as an expert witness, one must have knowledge, education and experience in a particular field that goes far beyond the general understanding that the typical layperson is likely to possess.

As long as the analysis of an expert witness is scientifically sound, he or she may give evidence that would normally not be admissible in court. For example, x-rays are usually considered hearsay in the eyes of the law and therefore not admissible as evidence. However, a doctor called as an expert witness can testify about his or her analysis of x-rays because they are diagnostic tools normally used in the medical profession. Similarly, the court allows an expert witness to give opinions in his or her testimony even though most witnesses must confine themselves solely to the facts when testifying. 

To allow attorneys on both sides to effectively cross-examine the expert witness, he or she must provide all parties with a written summary of his or her analysis and conclusions relating to the matter prior to giving testimony.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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