All witnesses are not equal. There are significant differences between a fact witness and an expert witness, and the preparation of each for testimony requires different strategies. Fact witnesses can testify only to what they know directly, whereas expert witnesses can testify not only to their areas of expertise, but also to information gathered from other sources, often referred to as hearsay evidence. Thus, expert witnesses usually have greater latitude with what they are allowed to testify to, as well as how to use their testimony.
As a forensic psychology professional working with the courts, you may be asked to testify in capacities that include, but are not limited to, testifying as an expert or a fact witness, even when you have had direct professional contact with an individual involved in the case. You also are likely to be asked to prepare a fact witness to testify before trial. Conveying elements of effective testimony that are specific to fact witnesses is an essential aspect of the forensic psychology professional’s role in preparing witnesses.
To prepare for this assignment:
- Review the selected pages in Chapter 18 in your course text Psychological Evaluations for the Courts. Focus on the elements of testimony that you would use to prepare a fact and an expert witness.
- Review Chapter 9 in Coping With Cross-Examination and Other Pathways to Effective Testimony, and focus on witness preparation.
- Review the article “Ethical Considerations of Multiple Roles in Forensic Services,” paying particular attention to the similarities and differences between preparing fact versus expert witnesses.
- Review the book excerpt, Chapter 3, “Testifying in Courtrooms,” in Forensic Social Work: Legal Aspects of Professional Practice. Even though this chapter is specific to social workers testifying in court, the definitions and strategies for preparation of fact and expert witnesses remain consistent across fields. Think about the definitions and purposes of fact and expert witnesses. Keep in mind the similarities and differences between preparing fact versus expert witnesses.
- Select two similarities and two differences in preparing fact witnesses versus expert witnesses.
- Read the handout “Vignette: Week 10,” located in this week’s Learning Resources, and think about how you would prepare the witness in the vignette for testimony.
The assignment: (1–3 pages)
- Analyze and explain the two similarities and two differences between preparing fact witnesses versus expert witnesses that you selected.
- Explain insights or conclusions you have as result of doing this comparison.
- Analyze and explain how you would prepare the witness in the vignette for testimony and why you would do it in that way.
- Support your responses with citations from the Learning Resources.