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When psychologists act as expert witnesses a number of issues are raised surrounding the admissibility of their evidence - Discuss these issues with reference to eyewitness testimony and domestic violence.

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Introduction

When psychologists act as expert witnesses a number of issues are raised surrounding the admissibility of their evidence. Discuss these issues with reference to eyewitness testimony and domestic violence, then make suggestions as to how these issues might be resolved. In order to prosecute alleged offences, evidence such as testimony from eyewitness, fingerprint, hair, DNA, etc. which should provided in court accurately. These evidences are only allowed in legal proceedings when they are considered to be relevant (i.e. determined on the basis of the logically which is probative value of the evidence) and admissible which is legally receivable irrespective of whether or not it is logically probative. Therefore, evidence may be highly relevant but be inadmissible for legal reasons. In case where eyewitness testimony is the sole or main evidence against an accused, then the reliability of the testimony is very important. In order to prevent a possible miscarriage of justice, the defence may call an expert witness in an attempt to warn jurors of the dangers of relying too heavily on eyewitness testimony. It is because eyewitnesses can only testify about what they have observed or what they know as fact. On the other hand, the expert witnesses may express opinion for what they possess special knowledge about a topic, or knowledge that the juror does not have. In past, the psychiatrists were only acted as an expert witness in courtroom for testing their reliability. However, nowadays, psychologists are gradually appointing in courtroom. Generally, psychologists have provided expert testimony on a number of different legal issues such as sentencing recommendations; the degree of psychological trauma suffered by a victim of violent crimes and the typical behavioral pattern of abused women and children. In addition, the mental state of a defendant, and whether he/she is competent to stand trial or was sane at the time of the crime was committed and the reliability of eyewitness testimony, etc. ...read more.

Middle

Allegedly criminal acts often fall into this category, which suggested that jurors might not always be able to understand issues concerning mens rea (intention) purely on the basis of their common knowledge and experience of human behaviour. These terms suggested that expert psychological evidence should be admitted whether it is both relevant and potentially helpful to the jury in explaining aspects of the testimony in eyewitness that are not easily understood with common sense alone. On the other hand, in the case of Smith v. State (1981), courts have admitted testimony from an expert on the battered woman syndrome because it will help jurors understand and evaluate the evidence. The Supreme Court of Georgia reasoned that The expert's testimony explaining why a person suffering from battered woman's syndrome would not leave her mate, would not inform police or friends, and would fear increased aggression against herself, would be such conclusions that jurors could not ordinarily draw for themselves. If without providing expert testimony in the case of battered woman syndrome, the jurors and the prosecutor would use the 'logical reaction', which is the battered woman would be to either call the police or leave her batterer. If jurors had this misconception, they could perhaps be aided by the testimony of an expert indicating that for various psychological reasons or fear of reprisal, battered woman generally cannot leave such as the case of Ibn-Tamas v. United States (1979). The third is the evidence from the expert testifies must be scientifically reliable and generally accepted in the scientific community. The concern of expert testimony is whether scientific reliable because it may not mislead or deceive juries and not merely reflect a personal opinion. In case of eyewitness testimony and the battered woman syndrome, there has been little consensus about the validity of the available research and about whether that research can form the basis for an expert's opinion. ...read more.

Conclusion

Sheldon and MacLeod (1991) suggested that in order to reduce these problems, there were three considerations. Firstly, the judge should use a psychologist's report on a particular subject relevant to the trial as a basis on which to cross-examination. Another consideration is that, having independent psychologists who work as part of an independent forensic science service, or training some of the lawyers in the subject of psychology. Finally, Azevedo (1996) also outlined some factors that would threaten the credibility of the expert witness. Firstly, the threat to credibility is inconsistency between experts' testimonies and their actual professional practices, whereby they profess one practice and perform another. Secondly, some experts are tempted to exaggerate their credentials or testify on issues about which their knowledge is marginal. These professional "stretches" render experts vulnerable to rigorous cross-examination exposing the true limits of their training and knowledge. Another consideration is that the ignorance of the facts of specific case about which an expert is testifying. Finally, some psychologists exposed inconsistencies between current testimony and testimony in previous cases may be damaging. These are the problems and limitation that related to the psychologists acted as expert witness. In conclusion, research on the psychological testimony began almost 100 years ago. In the accumulated research the eyewitness testimony can be far from perfect, and there are many factors that affect eyewitness reports. The use of expert psychological testimony has increased in recent years with a concomitant increase in the range of cases. The psychologists allowed to give expert testimony are a very complex question because the issues of admissibility of psychological evidence are still problematic in some cases. From the limitation as shown before, the main problems influenced the admissibility of expert witness in court are the legal controversy, "battle of the experts" and "hired guns". In the future perspective, more realistic research is needed, and research should explore age differences in eyewitness testimony, the testimony of crime victims and techniques to improve the accuracy of testimony. Nevertheless, in some cases it can provide valuable information to the courts. ...read more.

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