Expert Testimony: Should the Jury or Judge Decide?

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According to Britannica, an expert witness is one who “must have specialized knowledge, skill, or experience in the area of their testimony. For the most part, they do not testify concerning facts but draw inferences from them.” It is their specialized knowledge that differentiates expert witnesses from fact witnesses and allows them to testify using conclusions and opinions rather than just facts. This power can cause problems in the courtroom, such as presentations of bias information or jury confusion, which is why judges have taken it upon themselves to act as gatekeepers with regard to admission of expert testimony. What is legally allowed as expert testimony has been debated for centuries and opinions on rigidity of admission standards have changed over time. Three major cases, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Khumo v. Carmichael, and Frye v. U.S. have had a significant impact on the admissibility criteria of expert testimony and heightened the debate of judges’ rights to act as gatekeepers. Expert witnesses are needed in the courtroom in order to clarify scientific ideas or relate general truths to the jury. There are many different types of experts, including credentialed, experiential and academic. The purpose of each type of witness is to clarify a scientific concept crucial to a specific case that a jury would not otherwise understand. These experts hold a lot of power in the courtroom because they can give conclusions based on certain facts, and if a jury believes them, the experts essentially replace the jury in the decision-making process (Justice Learned Hand). Judges need to make sure that each of these experts are qualified enough to give an opinion that would not taint the jury’s opinion in a wrongful way. However, while making a decision on which experts are allowed, judges must maintain a careful balance between preventing bias and junk

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