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NCJ Number: 121548 Find in a Library
Title: Ultimate Opinion Prescriptions: A Cosmetic Fix and a Plea for Empiricism
Journal: Law and Human Behavior  Volume:13  Issue:4  Dated:(December 1989)  Pages:357-374
Author(s): R Rogers; C P Ewing
Date Published: 1989
Page Count: 18
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This analysis of criticisms of ultimate opinion testimony given by mental health professionals in insanity trials concludes that efforts to eliminate such testimony will not achieve their intended goals; instead, they will obscure more substantive issues that are inherent in insanity evaluations and subsequent testimony.
Abstract: The effort to reform insanity law in this way is merely a shopworn restatement of concerns raised more than a century ago, following McNaughtan's acquittal in 1843. Proponents of this reform argue that it will remedy what some perceive to be interrelated problems: professional taint in highly publicized cases, expert opinions rendered without sufficient clinical data, undue influence of expert opinion on triers of fact, and the lack of expertise of mental health experts in moral and legal issues. However, the available research suggests that these arguments are based more on emotion and speculation than on definitive findings. Thus, further research is needed on insanity evaluations, the scope of expert testimony, jury decisionmaking in insanity trials, and the effects of judicial instructions. In addition, more practical reforms related to expert testimony deserve consideration and research. These include increasing control over the courtroom process, standardizing insanity evaluations, setting higher standards for mental health experts, and decreasing the adversary nature of insanity hearings. 88 reference notes. (Author abstract modified)
Main Term(s): Insanity defense
Index Term(s): Expert witnesses; Law reform; Psychiatric testimony
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