Mark Dershwitz, an anesthesiologist and pharmacologist, has offered his opinions as an expert witness for 22 states and the federal government for more than 10 years. Mr. Dershwitz was called by Ohio to defend their new two-drug lethal injection that led to an execution that lasted 26 minutes (this same drug combination resulted in another execution in Arizona that lasted two hours). However, he recently announced that he is terminating his “role as an expert witness on behalf of Ohio and all other states and the federal government.” He believed Ohio had “jeopardized his standing with the American Board of Anesthesiology in a news release it issued about the January 16 execution of Dennis McGuire.” The news release stated that the death was humane and it had “discussed the events and observations of the McGuire execution with its expert witness, Dr. Mark Dershwitz”. Anesthesiologists are not allowed to take part in the creation of any lethal injections and Mark Dershwitz maintains that there was no discussion about Dennis McGuire’s execution, he was simply informed of what happened. Mr. Dershwitz decided to terminate his role as expert witness because he is afraid that the mistakes that happened in Ohio could happen again and that’s a risk he is not willing to take. Although Ohio has supported Dershwitz’s story, he says it’s too late. He did, however, stand behind his testimony last year in which he said that he didn’t believe that McGuire suffered.
Dershwitz withdrew himself as an expert witness in cases challenging two death-row inmates in Montana in June. The cases have been postponed until next year because the state does not have another expert witness to replace him. “The US states that have the death penalty have been scrambling since a 2011 European-led ban stopped the import of drugs most commonly used to carry out executions.”
Sources: The Guardian and TribTown
According to IBISWorld, the Expert Witness Consulting industry has shown a strong recovery from the recession with a 6.8% annual growth from 2009 to 2014, amounting to an annual revenue of $390 million. Although the industry was growing prior to the recession, the decline in “per capita disposable income and corporate profit caused businesses and customers to have fewer funds available for expert witness consulting services; consequently, the industry’s growth slowed in 2009.” However, this growth shows signs of improvement; companies are recovering and therefore future growth in this industry is strong due to increasing demand from law firms and government organizations.
This industry does face growing competition, not only against each other (“on basis of price, quality of service, expertise, communications skills and reputation”) but also against external competition. Law firms have their own in-house legal teams with attorneys and expert witnesses, consulting firms and accounting firms that provide similar skills. Nevertheless, IBISWorld projects that the next five years will result in revenue increase. “Expert witness consultants will benefit largely from strengthened demand from law firms, higher corporate profit, a larger number of civil cases and great per capita disposable income”.
A growing number of cases around the world have used WhatsApp, a mobile messaging app, as evidence in court. In 2011, a Canary Islands court “ratified a sentence for libel based in part on a WhatsApp conversation”. In 2013, four girls in Spain had to pay hundreds of euros for threatening another girl who joined their chat on WhatsApp. That same year, a man was given a near-2 year jail sentence for sending thousands of WhatsApp messages to his ex-partner. In February of this year, “the Supreme Court accepted as evidence in a drugs-smuggling case WhatsApp conversations between the accused.” While that seems harmless, two programmers, Jaime Sanchez and Pablo San Emeterio, who specialize in cybersecurity have hacked WhatsApp. They are able to create a fake number and send messages to any mobile phone. They can also change the sender of the message before it reaches the intended recipient. Jaime and Pablo have also figured out how to eavesdrop on conversations. Sanchez says that they “earn a living by looking for weaknesses that might be used by criminals against the security of private individuals or businesses.” They have been working with WhatsApp for a few years and the company has patched up several of these issues with “varying degrees of success”. However, they have not found a way to fix the latest threat, “modifying the name of the sender of a message”. San Emertio says this could impact all sorts of situations, from daily messaging to issues related with divorce or blackmail.
“Lawyers, expert witnesses and cybersecurity specialists all agree that messaging services need to accept their responsibility in all this.” It can’t be long before others find a way to replicate this hack. Our legal system must not be too quick to accept newer technology because we don’t yet know all of its weaknesses.
Name: R. Thomas Berner
Company: Pennsylvania State University
Location: Bellefonte, PA
Expert witness profile information provided by Mr. Berner:
R. Thomas Berner has been a journalism expert since 1986. Since then, he has been involved in 12 defamation or copyright cases in state and federal court. Mr. Berner is a professor emeritus of journalism and American Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. He has also written several textbooks on language skills, writing, and editing. Mr. Berner will testify to the general standards of care in journalism and the role of reporters and editors in the reporting and publication process.
Be sure to check out Mr. Berner’s expert profile for more information:
I am excited to announce our new strategic partnership with Expert Witness Profiler, the country’s foremost expert witness research company. Through this relationship, users may now order expert witness research reports directly from Courtroom Insight. Specifically, there will be one free report available to order or two paid reports for purchase. These reports offer a range of options including a snapshot assessment of an experts’ testimonial history, a detailed analysis of an expert’s prior history of being challenged, excluded and endorsed by the court, as well as a comprehensive background research report. Expert Witness research reports are available on our new “Research” tab included on each expert witness profile.
This new service greatly enhances litigation preparedness. For attorneys, this represents a thorough and efficient method to research prospective hires or opposing experts. And for experts, this offers an inexpensive way to determine what information may surface during deposition or cross-examination at trial.
Read the full press release here.
On Tuesday, the NCAA’s ban on compensating student-athletes came under question for the second day in federal court. The class action lawsuit claims that the NCAA is violating antitrust laws by forbidding that Division I football and basketball players get paid anything beyond their awarded scholarships. Chief U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken is overseeing the case that “centers on whether such athletes should be allowed to share in profits from the lucrative college sports revenue stream, such as from merchandise and particularly from television rights.” The NCAA’s argument rests on the belief that allowing student-athletes to share in that profit with ruin the system and negate education in college sports.
An economics expert witness, Roger Noll, from Stanford University testified for the college athletes saying the policy violates federal antitrust laws. He said “athletes are illegally being deprived of the right to share in the multibillion-dollar college sports bounty.” The attorney for the NCAA said that student-athletes get to enjoy the “notoriety of college sports”; however, Noll responded by saying that “they like everything that goes with [playing sports]… that doesn’t mean they aren’t being exploited.”