This podcast episode consists of an interview with Dr. Alicia Wilcox from Husson University and Heidi Eldridge from RTI International, who discuss how visual aids and other communication tactics have helped jurors interpret subject matter presented in expert testimony.
Wilcox conducted a study of jurors 'comprehension of and reliance on testimony by forensic scientists in criminal trials in Maine. Eldridge is familiar with previous research on jurors 'comprehension of testimony by forensic scientists. They agree that comprehension of testimony by forensic scientists varies among jurors based on their academic and professional backgrounds related to principles of scientific analysis. The focus of the interview is on how the forensic community and court procedures can assist jurors with limited knowledge and experience with the sciences to comprehend the testimony of forensic scientists. Wilcox and Eldridge agreed that forensic scientists who testify about their work in evidence analysis and interpretation are generally untrained in techniques of explaining their findings to jurors who have no background in scientific endeavors. They recommend greater use of visual techniques in explaining forensic techniques and findings. There was also agreement between Wilcox and Eldridge that jurors generally do not comprehend and are not influenced by expert testimony on statistical analysis of the reliability of a forensic scientist's conclusion about a piece of evidence. Jurors mainly focus on the expert's overall conclusion about how the evidence either incriminates or exonerates the defendant. Jurors are also influenced by whether the expert testimony is consistent with the narrative of guilt portrayed by the prosecutor using less scientific and more easily understood testimony.