There are several factors a technical/scientific expert should prioritize when providing testimony as a witness. First and foremost, one should determine the type of witness they are, technical/scientific, or expert. Next, an extensive amount of time should be allocated to the preparation of material that will be presented; in this, witnesses should be ready to give factual statements, not offer conclusions, provide thorough documentation, check opposing experts’ data, and answer several questions. A forensic investigation testimony should define the story of the case, what can be said with confidence, what the client’s theory is, and clearly define the scope of the case. All evidence collection and analysis should be well documented, and the chain of custody maintained (Nelson, Phillips, Steuart, 2019).
When it comes to the actual delivery of the testimony, proper research on your audience is an excellent method in judging the technical capabilities of the judge, jury, and other members of the hearing. For example, speaking in layman’s terms and not using abbreviations is typically the right choice. Next, you always want to be facing who you are talking to and present your findings in a clear and relaxed manner. Proper care must be taken during a testimony to prevent doubling-back on your statements. Prosecutors are known to attempt to stumble or confuse you with rapid-fire questions or discrediting your authenticity. One should always be prepared with definitions of common technologies used in the case, use media that conveys your material in an easy-to-comprehend manner (when possible), never answer a question that you do not know the answer to (without merely saying something like, “that is beyond the scope of my expertise,” stay professional and polite at all times, and finally, dress in a suitable manner (which mirrors the community’s dress code) (Nelson, Phillips, Steuart, 2019).
Giving testimony about a forensic investigation is anything but a simple process; instead, it is filled with regulations, laws, potential risks, and the difficulty with conveying rather sophisticated investigative methods and computer terms into a logical format. By preparing for testimony by researching what needs to happen, what can happen, what to do when disaster strikes, as well as what can be learned in the process, one can ensure that their character, reliability, and professional skills remain untarnished. In the field of forensic investigation, our reputation is everything.
Nelson, B., Phillips, A., & Steuart, C. (2019). Guide to Computer Forensics and Investigations. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
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