Appearance is another key aspect in preparing for court. It is imperative to understand that the role of a fingerprint examiner may determine the conviction or innocence of an individual. Therefore, one must dress in a professional yet unbiassed manner. Consider the following attire while preparing for courtroom testimony:
- • Business suit
- • Dark color clothing
- • Appropriate fit
- • Light jewelry
- • No sunglasses
- • Properly groomed hair
Qualifying the Expert Witness
Another facet to the preparation phase is for the examiner to prepare to testify as an expert witness in the lifting, comparison, and identification of latent and known fingerprints. Although the inexperienced examiner may testify as a lay witness, it will be only a matter of time before the witness is called upon to give expert testimony. Let us first define an expert. By law, an expert is someone who possesses knowledge or skills above or beyond that of a layperson. A more usable or definitive definition would be:
One who by a combination of knowledge, training, and experience has reached a high level of proficiency in a specific field or endeavor, and who has been so recognized by the court as an expert.
Fewer restrictions are placed on the expert witness. An expert witness may render an opinion while a lay witness may not. The expert witness is also perceived to be of a higher caliber or carrying more weight than lay witnesses.
In order for a fingerprint examiner to qualify as an expert witness, they must undergo the process called voir dire, or the questioning of the individual’s qualifications. The voir dire is a series of questions that are asked of the witness to establish their credentials as an expertise (see Appendix B). This process can also be referred to as the direct examination of the expert witness. At the end of the examination, the judge will determine if the witness may testify as an expert in the field of fingerprints.
Figure 6.2 Presenting exhibit before the court.