Expert Witness Activity Page

Kevin Svitana, Otterbein College
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Understanding the role and strategies of an expert witness, particularly an expert in the geosciences, is the focus of this module.

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Learning Goals

Students will learn how experts are utilized in the court system to render opinions regarding issues related to their expertise. The skills to be mastered by students will include affidavit writing, public speaking, preparation of exhibits, as well as an appreciation for the characters stated expertise.

Context for Use

This module should be executed in the middle or latter portion of the semester. It is likely more efficient to have students appreciate their characters professional skills prior to developing expert witness strategies. Instructors should have students execute prior modules regarding geology and health sciences with the intent that completed exercises can be included as part of the expert witness testimony. Introducing the concept of expert witness early on in the semester would likely help students be more effective in developing their courtroom strategies.

Description and Teaching Materials

Videos of the Ohio State mock trial are included in the resource materials to provide visual reference as to how the mock trial can be executed. Specifically excerpts of different experts are included in the video clips. Instructors can view these video clips and gain an appreciation of what makes for more effective mock trial role-play. These strategies should be conveyed to the students in an effort to help them become more effective expert witness.

Teaching Notes and Tips

The instructors should be familiar with the characters from A Civil Action and select students accordingly for their roles. To the extent possible faculty may guide or mentor the students in their roles, however, it may be beneficial to allow the students to "perform" to their own capabilities.


Assessment is most effective when the instructor and students peer's critique their ability to portray an expert in a courtroom setting. The debrief after the trial may be an effective way of conducting assessment for this activity.

References and Resources

Resources for this activity would include reviewing the trial transcripts and various newspaper articles presented in the Resource Collections.

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