by D.H. Garrison, Jr.
Originally published in the Association of Firearm Toolmark Examiners Journal, Oct. 1993.
Just because a shot was fired, and just because someone was injured or died as a result of the shooting, and just because a shooting reconstruction was completed…this does not mean that the expert can render an opinion about the intent behind the bullet thus fired.
While many an attorney, whether prosecution or defense, wants to “prove” the intent or lack thereof to a jury, and sometimes tries to use a expert witness to accomplish that end, this does not mean that the shooting reconstruction expert has any scientific basis whatsoever to state an opinion as to what was or was not the intention of the shooter at the moment of the shooting. Intent, after all, is usually an “ultimate issue” and, thus, the purview of the jury, the finders of fact, and cannot properly be addressed by the expert. Continue reading
By Dean H. Garrison, Jr.
This article originally appeared in the MAFS newsletter April 1996.
“I tend not to try to determine why people do things at crime scenes.”
-Criminalist Charles Morton
California v Menedez II, Trial transcript 12-5-95
Crime scene reconstruction may answer the question of where a victim was standing when an axe hit him or who stepped in the pool of blood by the door or what caused the revolver’s hammer to fall or when the third shot hit the car window or how the knife ended up out on the patio, but the crime scene reconstructionist cannot answer the ultimate question, the final question that tugs at everyone’s mind, the all-encompassing, all-seeing, all-knowing question of WHY did the crime happen? This may account for the fact that attorneys (for either side) very seldom ask “Why?” questions. Continue reading
By Pat A. Wertheim
This article originally appeared in Minutiae, the Lightning Powder Co. Newsletter, #44, Sep-Oct 1997
When offering testimony as an expert witness, regardless of the witness’ discipline, five distinct topic areas must be covered. These five areas are the witness’ qualifications, the science practiced by the witness, the introduction and chain of custody of the evidence, the analysis or examination process, and the expert’s opinion. By adequately covering each area in sequence, the witness will five the judge or jury all of the information necessary to understand the opinion presented.