Simply put, forensics is the science of proving or disproving a theory. It is the Expert Witness’s job to look through the available evidence and give their professional opinion of whether the theory can be proven or if it can be disproved. In criminal courts, the burden is 100% and the Expert must be able to prove with all certainty the evidence examined leads to a conclusion which is precise.
There are many people claiming to be Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in their field, but they may not be the best choices when it comes to testifying in court. Sometimes, the more technical a person is, the less people skills they have and interactions with a jury becomes their weakness. There is a satirical reason the stereotypical basement cubicle geek is put into a cubicle. They may have an extremely good skill-set but communicating with people is not on that list.
Connections with their communication-lacking traits ties in with some of the common mistakes expert witnesses make. One of biggest issues is not explaining “sciency stuff” in a way the layman person can understand. If asked about a technical process or evidence, it is good to explain in a way that the Judge, Jury, and your family members, who “don’t do computers very well”, can relate with. Sometimes analogies help your target audience relate to extremely complicated procedures and sometimes its as simple as speaking directly to them using human terms.
It is always helpful to keep answer short and to the point and to not go off on technical tangents. Helping the attorney understand is the first step in keeping a clear Q&A and if possible, using answers such as yes and no are some of the best answers to give. If the opponent’s job is to trip you up, to be a hired gun, and only present contradictory arguments, be confident that only misleading or untruthful counter arguments can defeat your honest conclusion. Be prepared for these statements when the evidence and your opinions are conclusive because if they can not disprove your finding the next step is to attack the expert witness themselves. Do not make their job easier by providing misleading testimony or depositions which can be used to impeach you in future cases or to discredit you.
Your professionalism, presentation of evidence, personal demeanor, and appearance in court and on the stand is a vital part of your expert persona. Becoming agitated, arguing with the opposing attorney, or trying to answers questions which do not pertain to your analysis will diminish your credibility. One example might be talking down to those asking you opposing questions or agreeing to hypotheticals when explaining the evidence. The Expert Witness is there to help everyone in the courtroom understand your expert findings even if the findings point to a lack of evidence. If there was evidence found, the theory can be proven to a judge or jury. If your forensics examination does not support the overall case success, there is no reason to be frustrated or to provide marginal data.
Always and I mean 100% tell the truth. One lie or misleading statement can destroy a career or worse, there can be criminal and civil repercussions against you. Cyber Forensic Science does not lie and neither should a Cyber Forensics Expert on the stand.
An Cyber Forensic Expert witness should study and rehearse their case notes before going into the courtroom. Take the time to cover very detail with the attorneys and to walk through the findings. These simple steps will allow the attorney to challenge any finding your will present and will iron out all expectations between you and them during direct testimony. No one like surprises and this helps to insure there will be no disconnects between you and your attorney.
As a Cyber Forensics Expert, knowing some of the common mistakes can help to mitigate unforeseen issues in court, present a truthful analysis, and keep your reputation as a credible expert in place for life.