Physics on Trial

Dr. Richard. J. Reimann
Physics Department
Boise State University

The American judicial system is built upon precedence and the testimony of expert witnesses.  Such an authoritarian role can be particularly difficult for a physics teacher accustomed to objective analysis and guiding understanding.  Jurors usually have diverse, non-technical backgrounds and will balk at anything beyond conceptual physics.  Can they gain a working appreciation of Newtonian physics in less than an hour?  Will opposing attorneys realize the breadth of physics or limit the testimony as either irrelevant or outside the area of expertise?  Are reasonable approximations acceptable or too simplistic?  What happens when other experts fail to recognize subtleties?  Personal experiences involving several first-degree child murder cases are recounted.