I’m always trying to learn more about science and the law. My friend Kevin Sontag and I graduated from Hendrix College together in1989. He is a forensic scientist for the Arkansas crime laboratory, and has given me tours of the different departments at the crime lab. I’ve been to all of the different areas including pathology, the serum lab, drug testing, and large quantity drug testing. It’s been very interesting to see all of the different departments and how they work to produce fact based scientific results.
Kevin is a great scientist and I’m glad he is working for all of us in the Crime Laboratory. I know how critical this scientific evidence is, because I’ve used it in nearly every trial I’ve worked on.
One example of scientific evidence is from some of my clients from the American Airlines Flight 1420 crash. The victims were diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which was not a medical term that the public understood in 2002 when we tried these cases. I searched for the leading scientist who had the most publications in scientific journals about PTSD. Thankfully, world-renowned neuropsychologist Dr. Erin D Bigler agreed to review and test my clients for PTSD.
Dr. Bigler, a teacher at Brigham Young University, is an expert on brain health and has spoken at several TED talks. Dr. Bigler explained to the jury how a traumatic life-threatening event involving loud noise, fire could trigger PTSD from even one event. Dr. Bigler’s testimony relied upon his years of research of PTSD and the brain that he had performed over years with other scientists. These traumatic events cause physical changes to the brain, which leads people to have PTSD when they are exposed to relatively minor events later in life.
Dr. Bigler's expertise was used at trial to help a jury understand how a plane crash will have a permanent effect on a crash victim. This was critical to ensuring that the victims of American Airlines 1420 secured justice for their injuries, so to me and to my clients, he is heroic. Scientific evidence is critical in so many different areas, and we are fortunate that we have made such tremendous gains in this area.