December 4; What Makes An Expert Witness?
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December 4

He came as a witness to testify concerning that light,
so that through him all might believe.

John 1:7

What Makes An Expert Witness?

Testimony

Charmaine was called on as an expert to bear witness to the facts that the decision makers would need to consider. She recommended against the nominee who would go on to be a Supreme Court Justice.

She was out-voted. Her advice, in this case, was rejected.

She has given testimony as an expert to legislators on a number of occasions including Senate hearings.

This is a lot of expert advice-giving. And few can do it better than Charmaine. The decision makers would not always take her recommendations, but they would usually consider her evidence.

Why do lawmakers listen to her?

It can be summarized in five C’s.

Credentials – What makes the witness so smart? Charmaine has a terminal degree in political science and government from the University of Virginia. It took ten years. She’s been widely published and is the president and CEO of Americans United for Life, a public interest law firm. And most important: she’s appeared on every cable network. Including Hardball with (the liberal) Chris Matthews. (This was years…and years ago.) The Judiciary Committee requested her Curriculum Vita (CV).

Character – Can the witness be destroyed? Yes, it should make no difference on the messenger’s faults in delivering the message. But ad hominem arguments are used more in this sight and sound generation. This is a favorite tactic of the community organizer from Chicago, Saul Alinsky and his students. Fortunately, Charmaine has no faults.

Content – What does the witness deliver? What the witness says must be correct and must be clear — both from the witness stand and when read back by a court reporter. This takes practice and rehearsal. The witness is making an oral argument that will be captured on paper and must be readable and repeatable.

Concise – Can the witness perform in sound-bite mode? Long-winded academics need not apply. Our short attention span populace will wander away mentally, change channels, or do an under the table Blackberry check. Shortness works. Short words; short sentences. And short responses. This takes more practice. As Mark Twain reminds us, it takes two weeks to come up with a good ad lib.

Compelling – Is the witness likable? Can the witness establish rapport, the first step in the sales process. Is the witness confident? Communication is non-verbal: does she look like and sound like she knows what she’s talking about? What the witness says is important, of course. But do we believe her and her story? Do we like her?

Consistent – Is the witness of one mind? Harry Truman wanted only one-armed lawyers and economists to advise him; that way they’d never say “on the other hand…” Opposing counsel will provide the opposing expertise. The court will get a second witness for the second opinion. One expert witness should not advocate both sides of the argument.

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We are called upon to be a witness for the good news of Jesus Christ. We cannot make the decision for another person. Even if the person rejects The Good News. We are not the judge; we are the expert witnesses.

He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. John 1:7

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