Letter: “Experts” must toe the official COVID line or be discredited

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Dear Editor,

I read with great interest attorney Childers’ letter about experts, wherein he asserted that the system works, notwithstanding its flaws. According to Mr. Childers, competing experts on both sides of a scientific issue are to be expected and are therefore acceptable, subject to the weight attributed to the expert’s testimony by the jury. Having testified in hundreds of trials in the U.S. and Canada in state and federal courts over a 30 year period in the fields of human factors, injury biomechanics, and accident reconstruction, I can say with some authority that the system does not work. 

The expert witness business is essentially what many lawyers refer to as a “whore” industry. Most, but not all, so-called “experts” are indeed whores who sell themselves to the highest bidder. Science virtually never prevails in court. The most persuasive experts are usually the most glib who can do a good job of entertaining a jury. Few jurors have sufficient education in science or technology to even begin to understand highly technical arguments. Consequently they must be razzle-dazzled with a good dog and pony show to influence them. 

One of the major flaws in the system is the judges. Under various legal precedents, they are supposed to be “gatekeepers” who can keep junk science and phony experts out of the courtroom. An expert is subjected to a voir dire wherein the lawyer seeking to have the court allow the expert to testify tries to establish the expert’s alleged “impartiality.” This is usually done by establishing that the expert routinely testifies for both plaintiffs and defendants. In reality, all that is established is that the expert may be a “whore” who sells opinions to whatever lawyer or insurance company will pay him or her. 

The important issue that is virtually never established is how many legal cases the expert has reviewed over a period of time versus how many cases the expert turned down because he or she saw no merit in the case. Judges should demand to know this. For example, if an expert has reviewed 200 cases, how many has the expert turned down? What are the odds that an expert could preliminarily review 200 cases for further technical and scientific review and not find a single case for which courtroom testimony could not be offered on behalf of the retaining lawyer? Any time I have counseled a lawyer client to explore this issue with an opposing expert, the expert folded, since the evidence indicated that the expert was a whore for hire. 

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In the United States, there is a principle that when a lawyer hires an expert, the expert really is not in the lawyer’s employ. The expert is supposed to be an impartial advisor to the trier of fact. Judges, however, fail to adequately establish such impartiality by exploring the expert’s case history and the number of cases turned down by the expert. Thus the “whores” escape adequate judicial scrutiny and exclusion from the courtroom. 

Consequently, the system is so polluted that trials involving science and technology devolve into entertainment circuses. I personally know lots of conscientious experts who will not sell out for a fee, however I got so sick and tired of the corruption of the system by dishonest “experts” that I quit and wrote a novel about just how rancid the system really is. 

So what does all this have to do with the present COVID pandemic? Just follow the money. Almost all the so-called “official” medical and scientific experts in the COVID arena are beholden to some government organization or the pharmaceutical industry for grant money,  or they are subservient to the CDC or the WHO. Fail to toe the official COVID line, and they are blacklisted. No more grants. No more job. This is all about “science” for hire. 

I once had a meeting with an insurance company executive who closed the door to her office and told me with all candor:    

“Sal, I am going on to another job in a week. But I want you to know one simple fact. If you do forensic work for this insurance company, the first time you tell them something they don’t want to hear is the last time you will do any work for this insurance company.” 

So much for honest science and technology when somebody like that is controlling the checkbook. I declined to work for them, as did a few other experts I know. 

Sal Fariello, Gainesville