There are arson investigators who base their methods on a predetermined rule-of-thumb collection: specific types of damage and char patterns mean an automatic arson call for them, and that's it. Unfortunately, research has proven that many of these presumed sure signs of arson can also happen during completely accidental fires.
Classic arson signs, like melted metals in doorway thresholds, can easily be caused by an ordinary fire that reaches flashover point and ignites the entire room. The list goes on and on. Our personal favorite is the crazing of windows, a phenomenon wherein glass suddenly develops hundreds of cracks. It's generally thought to be caused by rapid heating, thus indicating a fire that was lit with an accelerant. Turns out it can also easily be caused by rapid cooling -- such as, say, water from a fire hose striking a hot window. Whoever would have thought such a thing could occur at the scene of a fire?
"I'm charging you all as accessories."
Expert Witnesses Are Biased And Often Contradict Themselves
Expert witnesses can make sense of a difficult situation, and lend some professional authority to a statement that would otherwise amount to a long, wet fart noise in the ears of the jury. You can count on these folks to give an honest opinion on the matter at hand, based on nothing but cold, precise, well-researched facts and science.
Or can you?
No. Obviously, the answer is going to be no. You've read the rest of this article; you know that. Quit being coy.
How It Can Go Horribly Wrong:
One well-informed expert witness is fine and all, but such a marvel is practically nonexistent in the legal system. It's common for both defense and prosecution to call their own expert witnesses on a subject, and equally common for them to give contradictory opinions. In fact, courts do more than prepare for this schism -- they actually expect it. The U.S. legal system enables a judge to bring in another expert witness just to choose between the expert witnesses of the opposing sides.
"Your honor, I'd like an expert witness to verify her expert credentials to verify the experts' expertise."
What's more, experts aren't even accountable for their antics. They are merely giving opinions. If they honestly believe they're right, even if they aren't, well, being wrong ain't illegal. If it was, anybody who doesn't like The Princess Bride would be in jail. Now, we're not saying that all experts are corrupt crooks selling their statements to the highest bidder. It's mostly down to unconscious bias. This means that each expert's opinion will be swayed to help the party they are working for, without intending any true malice.
Unlike those freaks who hate The Princess Bride. They're just plain evil.
Abraham is a Mexican lawyer. When he isn't doing law stuff, he writes comedy. You can say "Hi" to him on Twitter here, or visit his DeviantArt page here.
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