Would religious affiliation nullify testimony by an expert witness?

Question by Kell: Would religious affiliation nullify testimony by an expert witness?
Scenario: Arguments are being made at the Roe v. Wade trial. Wade brings in an embryologist as an expert witness. The opposing counsel objects because the respected embryologist is a pro-life Catholic who often writes articles refuting abortion.

Does the judge refuse to allow the embryologist to testify?

In other words – does an “expert witness” have to be irreligious?

Any clarification on this will be greatly appreciated.
Kim, thank you. The embryologist would not give any of his “religious” disagreements with abortion. He would only be giving his vast embryological testimony regarding the “science” of when a human life begins.

But is this open for interpretation by the judge? If the opposing counsel disagreed that he should be allowed to be an expert witness does the judge still HAVE to let him testify or is the law such that the judge “could” make a determination that the witness had a conflict of interest?
I see Go AZ. So the judge could NOT prevent an expert witness from testifying for either side. So let’s say that counsel A called his expert embryologist to testify that life begins at conception. Then the judge has to allow him to testify – right? But at the same time – the opposing counsel B could call in an expert embryologist who may cast doubt about when life begins – correct?

Am I understanding this correctly?

Best answer:

Answer by Kim
No, an expert witness does not have to be irreligious.

However, a witness’ testimony should be limited to his area of expertise. In your scenario, the embryologist should restrict his testimony to his medical views, without bringing religion into it. When it comes to presenting the religious view on abortion, a different witness would be preferable.

Edit: judges have very wide latitude in such matters. If the judge thinks the witness has a conflict of interest, he can prevent the witness from testifying. But if a judge disallowed testimony because of the witness’ religion, I would bet money that the case would be overturned on appeal.

Edit 2: in theory, the judge could prevent the witness from testifying. But in practice, the judge would “have to” let the witnesses testify if they both had good scientific credentials and the nature of their testimony was scientific, lest the case be overturned on appeal. What would probably happen in such a case is that both sides would call in opposing experts.

What do you think? Answer below!

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2 thoughts on “Would religious affiliation nullify testimony by an expert witness?

  1. No.
    It would be up to the opposing attorney to bring out ‘damaging’ information in cross-examination.

    There are ‘expert witnesses’ in virtually every field that testify on both sides of any question.

    (You might watch “Inherit the Wind”, a classic movie, which is supposed to deal fictionally with creationism v evolution. The cross-examination of the religious prosecuting attorney is very powerful.)

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