Judicial branch leaders were left disappointed on Tuesday, after Governor Jerry Brown announced that no additional money would be given to California courts. According to his 2013-14 budget, the surplus of tax revenues (estimated to be $4.5 billion) from the current fiscal year will be allotted elsewhere, such as public schools.
“The [Assembly] speaker has spoken about giving [the courts] more money, and I’m sure there will be a lot of give and take as we go through the process,” Brown said. “All these institutions — courts, universities, hospitals — have huge costs and everybody has to get used to managing them because we’ve been used to this overcommitment at the federal level, at the state level. And we’re trying now to have honest budgeting and careful budgeting and so that’s why we’ve held [the courts] level.”
In hopes of gleaning favor from the Governor, judicial branch leaders had enacted a budgeting system that equalizes money available to courts across the state, by shifting money from courts with more money to those that are substantially underfunded. The Administrative Office of the Courts announced that 77 courtrooms that have closed due to the budget cuts, and are trying to prevent that number from growing.
“I’m disappointed that the governor’s revised budget proposals provide no more fiscal relief to the courts,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in a prepared statement. “Given the state’s current fiscal condition, I had hoped for more effort to help stop the downward spiral of the judicial branch budget.”
The issue of court funding will continue, and hopefully come to a beneficial resolution before more courts close their doors.
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Defendant Jodi Arias faces the death penalty if found guilty of first-degree murder of ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander back in 2008.
EXPERT WITNESSES: Psychologists
State: Janeen DeMarte: Personality Disorder
Defense: Robert Geffner: PTSD
Expert psychologist DeMarte who testified for the prosecution has said Arias showed signs of borderline personality disorder. Symptoms of borderline personality disorder include but are not limited to: unstable personal relationships, suicidal thoughts, anger and paranoia.
Arias showed signs of immaturity and an “unstable sense of identity.” People who suffer from borderline personality disorder “have a terrified feeling of being abandoned by others,” she said.
Defense expert Robert Geffner testified that Arias suffered from PTSD as a result from the trauma as well as battered woman’s syndrome and amnesia.
“We’re looking at a consistent pattern of trauma,” psychologist Robert Geffner told the jury on what is expected to be the last day of testimony.
Geffner spoke to the merits of DeMarte’s tests and findings, though believed the form of personality disorder would most reasonably be described as an anxiety disorder that would occur after a traumatic event.
“The tests would indicate significant trauma, and significant issues that cause symptoms with the way this person views themselves, the way they experience themselves, which could be present in an anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder,” Geffner said.
JURY: What do these differing opinions mean for the jury?
1. Personality Disorder: If jurors believe Arias suffers from personality disorder with an onset prior to the murder, the symptoms of anger, paranoia and inability to let go of relationships would signify that she was capable of first-degree murder.
2. PTSD: If jurors believe Arias suffered from PTSD, that means they also believe she suffered abuse.
Brian Skoloff, Associated Press: Just how crucial were experts for Arias defense?
Ryan Owen and Colleen Curry, ABC News: Jodi Arias’s Final Expert Witness Claims PTSD
ROBERT L. DUNN
Our condolences go out to the family of Robert L. Dunn, who died on April 13, 2013 when his car struck a tree along Highway 1 in Northern Sonoma County, California. Mr. Dunn’s untimely death is a great loss to the litigation world, as well as to Courtroom Insight for which he was a Strategic Adviser.
Early in his professional career as an attorney, Mr. Dunn realized the need for analysis and categorization of important court decisions involving lost profits and related business damages. In 1978, he published the first edition of Recovery of Damages for Lost Profits. For over 30 years, he continued researching legal cases and updating the book, which was last released as the two-volume 6th edition. Mr. Dunn published two additional books—Recovery of Damages for Fraud and Winning with Expert Witnesses in Commercial Litigation. A couple of years ago, he launched the quarterly journal titled Dunn on Damages—The Economic Damages Report for Litigators and Experts. Mr. Dunn was widely recognized and respected for his expertise in economic damages both from the legal and non-legal perspectives, and was a frequent speaker at national conferences for professionals interested in these topics.
Mr. Dunn was perhaps the best known lawyer in the country on the topic of damages, particularly among accountants and economists addressing damages issues for the litigation arena. Courtroom Insight extends the most sincere condolences to Linda Barry Dunn, Mr. Dunn’s wife, his family and friends.
Attorneys seek to discredit opposing witnesses in various ways, including impeachment. Impeachment can be a very powerful tool for attorneys if executed properly, and extremely damaging to an expert witness’s credibility. Don’t get caught off guard– be aware that opposing counsel will try to impeach if given the opportunity.
Rules To Impeach:
- The impeaching statement must be inconsistent with some part of either the express or implied testimony of the witness (Evid C §§770, 1235); and either (1) the witness, while testifying, was given an opportunity to explain or deny making the prior inconsistent statement (Evid C §770), or (2) the witness has not been excused from giving further testimony in the action (Evid C §770); and
- If the impeaching statement is a writing, it must be authenticated (Evid C §1401).
- Read/review previous deposition transcripts prior to giving testimony. Be aware of topics and opinions previously given.
- The witness has an opportunity to explain or deny the point of dispute.
- Explain clearly why answers have changed between current testimony and past depositions.
- Be aware of your tone of voice. Refrain from becoming argumentative or defensive towards counsel. A level and calm tone will help the jury perceive you are confident with your current position while explaining why your opinion has changed.
For insight on how tone or other characteristics can influence a juror’s perception of an expert witness, please read the previous post “Likability” Relates to Credibility.
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The “likability” of an expert witness is important. “Psychology Today” reports that forensic specialists have studied how likability impacts a juror’s perceptions.
Research suggests that jurors who perceive an expert witness as pleasant, (i.e. friendly, respectful, well-mannered) are more inclined to find him or her credible and trustworthy.
It is one thing for an attorney to work with an intelligent expert witness who is unbiased, fact driven, and prepared. However, those qualities are not enough. Expert witnesses must convey their opinions to a lay person, and “likability” is an important element relating to their credibility. Attorneys and trial consultants have an empirical foundation for addressing credibility that they access to prepare an expert for testimony.
• Using “we” or “us” when referring to the scientific community or humanity as a whole
• Occasionally smiling
• Modest statements (i.e. “relatively certain” or “we do not know everything there is to know in the field of psychiatry or psychology”)
• Being prepared in Court
• Consistent eye contact with the questioning lawyer and jury
• Informal speech
• Modesty in self-representation
• Referring to parties in courtroom by surname
• Saying “I,” “me,” or “my” when discussing findings/literature/best-practices
• Frowning or appearing sullen throughout the testimony
• Conclusory statements (i.e. “… is definitely the case” or “I am absolutely sure”)
• Flipping through notes on the stand and lacking preparedness
• No eye contact or looking down
• Highly technical jargon that nobody understands
• Overconfidence or grandiosity
• Frequent formal references to parties in court (i.e. “the client” or “the defendant”)
If you’ve worked with an expert you perceive to have a high, or low, likability level when testifying in front of a jury, please write a review on Courtroom Insight. It is free, easy, and takes only 3 minutes to recommend an expert witness to your peers!
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The consequences of perjury by an expert witness is not unheard of. Take the case of John Lloyd, who is now charged with perjury for lying about his credentials and misrepresentation of academic standing for his testimony in various child abuse cases. Lloyd stated his expertise includes biomechanics, and provides a rate of $300/hour.
Specifically, Lloyd stated he was a “professor of medicine” at the University of South Florida College of Medicine. However, the interim chair at the institution told investigators that Lloyd is not now nor has he ever been a professor of medicine there and they are in the process of issuing a cease-and-desist letter to Lloyd regarding his claims.
Lloyd’s testimony in a recent child abuse case assisted the defense in receiving a 4 year prison sentence for aggravated child abuse, rather than a 30-year sentence. Even if Lloyd is convicted of perjury, prosecutors cannot appeal Timothy Foxworth’s 4 year conviction sentence.
“There is no way to go back and unring that bell and retry him,” said Prosecutor Jennifer Hawkins.
It is important to research every credential on an expert’s CV, for reasons of perjury. Not only has perjury discredited Lloyd, but his actions may also impact his employers. It is unknown as of now if the defense attorney will face criminal charges for hiring Lloyd, but hopefully other attorneys take this into consideration when doing a background check on potential experts, and experts in turn remain honest regarding their credentials.
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