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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 202027 Find in a Library
Title: Right to Defense Experts
Journal: Criminal Justice  Volume:18  Issue:2  Dated:Summer 2003  Pages:14-21
Author(s): Paul C. Giannelli
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 8
Document: PDF
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article examines the difficulties in obtaining expert testimony for the defense of criminal defendants, especially indigent defendants.
Abstract: The right to an expert, and the need for expert testimony on behalf of the defendant, has been noted since the 1920’s. However, while prosecutors have little trouble gaining expert data and testimony, the defense is at a marked disadvantage. Prosecutors have all the resources of the State, county, and Federal Bureau of Investigation at their disposal. On the other hand, defense attorneys often have trouble finding available crime laboratories because a full 57 percent of crime laboratories will only examine evidence submitted by law enforcement officials (i.e., the prosecution). Furthermore, judges routinely deny requests by the defense for expert and investigative fees, placing the defense at a distinct disadvantage. The article discusses the 1985 Supreme Court capital case Ake v. Oklahoma, in which an indigent defendants’ right to an expert was upheld. Despite this decision, the Ake standards are not necessarily applied across the board because the Ake case was a capital case. As such, in cases not involving the death penalty, various States such as Alabama have found that the Ake standard does not apply. Moreover, there has been considerable debate over whether the Ake standard extends to experts other than psychiatrists; the Supreme Court decision in this case has been interpreted to include all experts that are necessary in the defense of the defendant. The article also discusses the question of whether the application for a defense expert must be ex parte. Other issues explored in the article include whether the Ake decision included the right to an effective expert and what the standard should be for appointment of an expert. In conclusion, the article notes that the Ake case is more important today than ever because of the use of DNA evidence in court.
Main Term(s): Expert witnesses; Indigent Defense
Index Term(s): Constitutional Rights/Civil Liberties; Right to counsel; US Supreme Court decisions
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