Expert witnesses are exceedingly important to all sorts of trials, from murder cases to personal injury litigation, but it can be hard for an expert witness to explain their specialty to a jury. The staff and faculty of William Mitchell College of Law understand this difficulty.
Since 2011, the school has offered a special workshop for scientists that teaches them to speak to juries in an understandable way. The program has been sustained by a grant from the National Science Foundation, which has awarded the college another grant of almost $550,000 to fund the program for the next three years.
“The goal is not to teach scientists to advocate for one side or another or to educate them in the intricacies of various legal processes. It’s to help them become better communicators of science in a variety of forums,” says a professor leading the program.
Currently, only climate and atmospheric scientists have been able to learn from these workshops, but William Mitchell College is looking to expand the program. It plans to roll out a training scenario that includes hydraulic shale oil fracturing, or fracking, which will hopefully draw scientists from other diverse fields to these workshops. Considering how important expert witnesses can be to any court proceeding, their efforts could be critical to many future cases.
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