“Forensic Engineer “Testimony Dismissed” – be careful with Video”

Prosecuting attorney Jonathan Hak offers a dire warning to experts who rely on video evidence without the requisite training or the slightest understanding of the effects of digital video compression. Hak, who specializes in admissibility issues relating to video evidence, authors a blog dedicated to helping experts avoid career-ending mistakes on the stand.

Hak’s latest paper offers an insightful and articulate dissection of a forensic engineering analysis of video evidence and of the excoriating judicial decision that followed. The paper describes in detail the work of a forensic engineer who, without any training in video examinations, video compression, deinterlacing, or image timing analysis, nevertheless opined on the meaning of the video images.

In Patel v. City of Madison, Alabama and Parker in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama (Case 5:15-CV-0253-VEH), the Plaintiff claimed he was seriously injured during an altercation with police. Mr. Patel hired a Forensic Engineer to analyze the video in order to conduct measurements to prove his case. To rebut the Plaintiff’s expert, the police hired Grant Fredericks, a Certified Forensic Video Expert with over 30 years of experience as a video analyst. Fredericks employed the powerful iNPUT-ACE video analysis software to demonstrate to the court that all of the Plaintiff’s opinions were in error.

iNPUT-ACE provides a simple user interface that exposes potential frailties in video evidence; it provides accurate data relating to image timing; it guides biomechanical engineers and traffic crash experts through the discovery of critical elements of video compression; and it helps to direct examiners to hidden detail in video images. Most importantly, iNPUT-ACE offers a comprehensive training program to quickly build video examination competency among non-video experts.

Jonathan Hak provides a detailed analysis in his case study of how the engineering expert ventured outside of his area of expertise, diving head first into the deep end of video examination without the assistance of a tool like iNPUT-ACE and without the accompanying training.

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The clear take-a-way from Hak’s article is that anyone who intends to comment about video evidence in an expert report, or who intends to offer expert testimony at trial, must have undertaken appropriate training, using appropriate tools.

The trial judge noted that the Defendants’ expert employed proper techniques and tools to support his analysis of the video and his rebuttal of the engineer’s evaluation of the video images. Grant Fredericks leveraged the power of iNPUT-ACE to quickly and accurately examine and interpret the reliability of the video images. “When uninformed and misleading (intended or not) expert evidence is presented to the trier of fact, we run the risk of the trier reaching the wrong conclusion and therefore a miscarriage of justice occurs,” writes Hak.

iNPUT-ACE takes this caution seriously, providing a comprehensive hands-on and web-based video training program for non-video experts. Visit one of our video Investigator Training classes in a city near you or call us for a web demonstration to see how iNPUT-ACE can raise your level of competency when dealing with video evidence.

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