McFolley v. State Highlights Importance of Expert Testimony in Jacksonville Defense

A recent ruling in the Georgia case of McFolley v. State shows why expert testimony can be so critical to any type of criminal case in Jacksonville.

This particular case was based on a felony murder and cruelty to children case where a man was charged in the death of a baby. Charges of murder in Jacksonville likely require expert witnesses. But there is an opportunity for experts in other types of cases as well, including sex crimes and computer-based crimes.
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That’s not to say that a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer will employ an expert in every situation because they are expensive and sometimes can alienate the jury. But there are cases in which a well-placed expert witness can help the defendant dispute key evidence presented by the state and can be an asset to the defense in explaining certain aspects of the case.

This case was based on an appeal where the defendant believed that expert testimony by the state should have been objected to by his trial attorney. The expert testified the baby could not have accidentally died. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that he didn’t get ineffective assistance of counsel based on the non-objection.

In 2005, the man was indicted on charges of malice murder, felony murder and cruelty to children. His son died and authorities charged him with the death. The boy went into cardiac arrest and when paramedics arrived, the boy was nonresponsive. He died several days later.

Authorities concluded the boy had a skull fracture to the back of his head, hemorrhages in his retinas and bleeding on the brain. The medical examiner ruled the boy had been shaken and hit against a flat surface. The medical examiner ruled that the injuries couldn’t have been the result of regular play.

To bolster its case, the state brought in a doctor who is an expert on Shaken Baby Syndrome. That witness testified that the child couldn’t have been injured by a mere accidental fall, but that force was used.

On appeal, the defendant argued that his attorney should have objected to the expert testimony. But the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that especially considering the man had told police the baby had taken several spills in the weeks leading up to the death, the testimony was necessary to explain whether or not those falls could have contributed to the boy’s death.

Cases involving the death of a child, or any death for that matter, can be highly emotional. Jurors must remain objective and decide the case based on the facts alone. But expert testimony used by the defense can often dispute key facts presented by the state.

In cases where there is a fundamental issue at hand that will decide the fate of the accused, an expert can provide doubt where the state’s expert provides an idea of truth to the charges. Experts must be deemed so by the judge based on their experience, education and prior testimony in other courts on the issue at hand. Judges have the discretion to not deem a witness an expert if he or she doesn’t show she is qualified.


The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for more than a decade and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

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State v. Herring Shows Why Mental Capacity, Retardation Key in Jacksonville Murder Cases: October 12, 2011