How Prosecutors Use Expert Witnesses in Texas Criminal Cases

For some criminal prosecutions, the government will go to great lengths to influence a jury to convict a defendant. Prosecutors will often retain and call expert witnesses to testify in support of a guilty verdict. Expert testimony is not always permitted, though when experts are allowed to testify on the state’s behalf, their testimony can significantly harm a defendant’s defense. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently released a decision that sheds light on their qualifications and the admissibility of their testimony.

According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the defendant was charged with a Texas domestic violence offense. At trial, the prosecution sought to prove the elements of an aggravated offense, and the defendant was sentenced to five years in prison. The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the state inappropriately used an expert witness who unfairly influenced the jury to convict him of the aggravated offense.

On appeal, the Court found that Rule of Evidence 702, which governs the admissibility of expert testimony, plays a pivotal role in determining whether an expert witness’s testimony will be considered in court. Under this rule, three conditions must be met before expert testimony becomes admissible: qualification, reliability, and relevance.

Qualification of an expert witness is determined by their background, training, and experience. Specialized knowledge can be derived from education, practical experience, or a combination of these factors. The expert must demonstrate that their background is tailored to the specific area of expertise in which they intend to testify. There is no strict requirement that an expert’s knowledge must be based on scientific principles or that they hold specific degrees or licenses. As long as the expert has the necessary background in the field, they can be considered qualified.

In this case, The expert’s background in social work, including her education and experience, qualified her to testify as an expert on the dynamics of domestic violence. The court found her qualifications to be appropriate for the specific area in question, thus allowing her testimony to be admitted.

Relevance in the context of expert testimony is determined by whether the expert’s knowledge will assist the trier of fact, often a jury, in understanding the case’s facts and reaching a decision. Even when the subject matter is within the average juror’s comprehension, expert testimony can be admitted if it enhances the jury’s understanding in a relevant manner. The crucial factor is whether the expert can expand the jury’s comprehension of the topic in question, either validating or challenging their preconceived notions.

In this specific case, the expert’s expert testimony about how mental illness and substance abuse can exacerbate domestic violence situations was deemed relevant. This testimony helped the jury understand why the victim remained in the relationship and why she didn’t report the initial instances of domestic violence. the expert’s insights were seen as instrumental in contextualizing the violence in the defendants’ relationship. The appeals court found that the requirements had been met, and the trial court’s admission of the expert testimony was proper. As a result of the recent ruling, the defendant will be forced to serve out his sentence.

Serious Charges Require a Serious Texas Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’re facing criminal charges in Texas, it’s essential to consult with the experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys at Guest and Gray. We can effectively utilize expert witnesses to strengthen your case. Expert witnesses can be the key to demonstrating your innocence or mitigating the severity of the charges. Don’t underestimate the importance of legal expertise and the use of qualified experts in your defense If you have been arrested or charged with any crime in Texas, call us to see how we can assist you. At Guest and Gray, we represent people accused of all Texas crimes, including domestic violence offenses. Reach out today for a free consultation to see if we can help.

Contact Information