Psychology and Law: Truthfulness, Accuracy and Credibility

By Amina Memon; Aldert Vrij et al. | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 9
THE ROLE OF EXPERT WITNESSES
Admissibility of Expert Testimony170
Expert Testimony: Its Impact on Jury Decision Making172
Examples of Research on the Impact of Expert Testimony175
Ethical Issues177
The Hired Gun Effect178
Objectivity in Child Abuse Trials178
Summary and Conclusion179

Nijboer (1995) defines expertise as the possession of special qualities—quantity and reliability—acquired through special education and training. Mental health expertise informs a range of topics, such as the connections between mental health and criminal responsibility, children's mental health treatment and placement issues, predictions of future dangerousness, defendant and witness competencies to participate in legal proceedings and the reliability of eyewitness testimony (see O'Connor, Sales & Shuman, 1996, for more examples). This chapter will examine some of the effects of expert witnessing with a focus on expert testimony on the reliability of eyewitness memory. Leippe (1995) defines expert testimony about eyewitness behaviour as follows:

Expert testimony about eyewitness behaviour occurs when a psychologist
admitted by the judge as an expert authority on “eyewitness testimony” takes
the stand in a jury trial and presents information about research and theory
concerning memory and the variables known to influence memory and memory
reports. (p. 910)

As indicated in a review by Penrod and colleagues (1995), the courts in some countries have become more responsive to expert testimony on witness issues over the last 20 years. This chapter is divided into two parts. In the first part, the inquisitorial and adversarial modes of presenting expert evidence are described. The criteria that may be used to determine expertise and to assess the scientific validity of evidence are presented next. The important issues with respect to

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