Monday, February 21, 2011

Expert Witnesses

In a column behind the Times paywall, football columnist Gabrielle Marcotti refers back to Zinedine Zidane's infamous head butt on Italian defender Marco Materazzi and more specifically the spurious accusations of racist abuse that were levelled against Materazzi.

Marcotti notes as an aside that the "lip reading experts" employed by the newspapers to reveal the fictitious abuse, who turned out to be either making it up or seeing what they wanted to see, are still frequently used as expert witnesses in criminal trials.

People have been convicted on the basis of the testimony given by lip reading experts.

Expert witnesses do appear to be a real problem in the criminal justice system in that they are giving evidence that non specialists, such as either the jury or the judges, are simply not competent to weigh.

The defence should cross examine the witnesses but even the greatest legal minds aren't going to be able to argue the minutiae of lipreading, paediatric medicine or gunshot particles with specialists in the field who may be wrong but at least understand the subject.


banned said...

Made me laugh some while ago when experts complained on behalf of deaf people who might be offendd when seeing "offensive langauge and profanity" on the pitch because of their skills in 'signing'.

James Higham said...

That's right. If these guys are determined to do you in, there's no way back.

Ross said...

Banned- surely the deaf campaigner should be demanding that footballers swear in sign language as well so they can understand it too.

James- Yes, it is power with out accountability.