An expert witness is an authority, who by virtue of education, training, skill, or experience, is believed to have specialized knowledge and expertise in a particular subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others should legally rely upon the witness's specialized (scientific, technical or other) opinion about an evidence or fact issue within the scope of his/her expertise, referred to as the expert opinion.
In this Bayne versus MCFD trial, Judge Crabtree will render a verdict. Leading to that anticipated and inevitable outcome each legal counsel calls witnesses some of whom are to be regarded as ‘expert.’ The contest is ongoing between the opposing sides, either to persuade the Judge that the witness is ‘expert’ or to discourage the claim to ‘expertise.’ Each lawyer is acquainted with the Canadian precedents that establish ‘expert’ definition. For testimony to be considered ‘expert’ its content must be the kind that informs the trier of the case, the jury or in this case, the judge, with facts that could not be discerned without the expert and without which the correct conclusion could not be reached. Expert evidence must be necessary or essential and relevant and reliable. To be reliable it must be able to withstand close scrutiny. A judge must then finally rule that the witness is entitled to testify by way of opinion or confirmation or otherwise. While several witnesses have already been presented, their admissability as experts and their 'expert' testimony has not yet been ruled upon by Judge Crabtree. That might be ruled today.
Well that’s what it was all about in court on Tuesday when Dr. Michael Sargent, a Pediatric Radiologist and part of the Children's Hospital physicians’ team was called as a witness for the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Finn Jensen presented him as an expert and his written report as expert testimony. We didn’t get to his testimony yet. That will wait for a later day in the schedule. If he is recognized as an expert, the expectation of the MCFD and Mr. Jensen is that his report and testimony should reinforce the position that the Bayne baby’s physical condition upon admission to Children’s Hospital in October 2007 was consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome. That's what he is there to do. Will that testimony withstand the heat of a Christie cross-examination may be the issue.
Perhaps Dr. Sargent was aware that his qualifications would be stoutly questioned by Mr. Doug Christie. The morning was spent examining his credentials. Christie’s resultant submission in the afternoon was that Dr. Sargent was not qualified to be the objective, independent expert, that he doesn't have the requisite expertise to speak to shaken baby causation from his examination of X-Ray film. Christie challenged Sargent's expertise to provide a forensic opinion. He should not be allowed to present as to cause. Christie calls this intrusion into areas for which the doctor is unqualified. As he conducted his examination of Dr. Sargent it was clear that Christie took issue with the collegial relationship Sargent has with Dr. Margaret Colbourne. Colbourne’s Shaken Baby diagnosis is a substantial founding block to the MCFD case against the Baynes having their children returned to them. It was Colbourne and Jensen who just a few weeks ago asked Sargent to stand as a witness in support of Colbourne's position. Sargent acknowledged that Colbourne had told him her opinion before she came to court to give testimony. The judge has yet to rule on Sargent's admissability as an 'expert.'
Why we didn't hear Dr. Sargent's testimony on Tuesday: The start of the court session proper, was delayed as both lawyers discussed new evidence that Finn Jensen wanted to present with respect to Dr. Sargent's testimony. Dr. Sargent's multi-page report was emailed to Doug Christie on Feb 22 2010. Sargent had written the report Feb 17, 2010. Doug Christie was prepared to cross examine Dr. Sargent with regard to his report until he learned that that it contained reference to two X-Rays that had only recently been located and were not delivered to the defence radiologist for review. Christie then requested an adjournment to this testimony until Bayne's expert, Dr. Barnes from Stanford would have an opportunity to review and to respond. The Judge would not hear the testimony that day in fairness to Mr. Christie. Cross-examination was limited to Dr. Sargent's qualifications.