I wanted to respond to some questions asked in response to the fire investigator's Q & A. The questions are bolded, below:
How closely do fire and arson investigators work with the police and the district attorneys?
The investigators, because they are certified peace officers, are kind of like cops with fire investigation training and experience. So they do the majority of the work on an arson case, and don't really bring in the police to do any part of it. I suppose they might use the same technical resources, say for DNA testing, but for a straight arson I've only ever dealt with the fire investigators.
How often do they end up testifying in court?
Not very often! Most cases, be they arson or some other crime, get pled out. This means no trial and so no need for them (or anyone) to testify.
Do jurors give fire and arson inspectors a lot of credibilty, or is that something you have to spend time establishing (like the first question in this interview).
I tried an arson case last year and put two fire investigators on. I have to say, the jury absolutely loved them. I think one was a teacher in a former life, and he really connected with the jurors when he described his role, the scene, and his opinions. Likewise, the other flat out knew what he was talking about. I think they won over a lot of jurors because they didn't act like they knew everything - when they didn't have an answer, they said "I don't know."
Now, it's true with any witness that when they first testify we try to let the jurors see who they are, learn about their background. So when it's a fireman, we make sure the jurors know how many fires they've investigated, how many they've worked on as regular firemen.
*Check back in a couple of hours to see more answers, to a reader's questions about juries.