Expert Witness’ Credibility Called Into Question During Pistorius Trial

An expert witness called by the defense team during the highly-publicized Oscar Pistorius murder trial gave a testimony with information on bullet wounds, blood spatter, bruises, ballistics, sound, light, fibers and a toilet door, only to later admit that he was neither a pathologist nor a ballistics expert and hadn’t been trained in analyzing blood spatters, according to an April 16 Los Angeles Times article.

The Pistorius defense originally called in forensic geologist Roger Dixon to examine gunpowder residue, the Times reports. He later admitted he had little to no actual expertise in the areas he had been asked to look at.

Gerrie Nel, the case’s prosecutor, called Dixon’s actions irresponsible, according to the Times.

“You gave evidence, you were strong about it,” Nel said regarding Dixon’s pathology evidence. “Do you see how irresponsible it is to give evidence on areas you are not expert?”

If an unqualified expert witness can appear in a high-profile case like the Pistorius trial, how often do they appear in less-covered cases?

“These situations happen quite often, especially if the litigator that is sourcing the expert doesn’t have the resources to properly cross check and evaluate the expert,’ says Michael Talve, Managing Director at The Expert Institute. “One should learn about their process and make sure they are extremely thorough in researching and verifying prerequisites such as education, qualifications, and experience. The research and verification process for finding witnesses is something that sets us apart from other companies in the expert witness service industry, we use technology and our expert research team to it’s fullest extent and potential.”

Dixon’s lack of expertise in his testimonials mean a lack in credibility for the Pistorius defense, which maintains that the South African Olympian did not murder girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. It’s yet to be seen how the debacle will affect the final outcome of the trial.

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