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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 98116 Find in a Library
Title: Determinants of Expert Witnesses' Opinions in Insanity Defense Cases (From Courts and Criminal Justice, P 57-79, 1985, Susette M Talarico, ed. - See NCJ-98113)
Author(s): R J Homant; D B Kennedy
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 23
Sponsoring Agency: Sage Publications, Inc
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
Sale Source: Sage Publications, Inc
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The role of ideology in attitudes of psychiatrists and psychologists toward the insanity defense and the effects of these attitudes in particular cases were examined by means of two separate studies.
Abstract: In the first study, 200 clinical psychologists and 200 pyshicatirsts were sampled from the telephone directory in the Detroit area. Fifty-seven psychologists and 55 psychiatrists returned the two-page questionnaire covering their experience in trials involving insanity pleas and their views regarding the insanity defense. Psychiatrists had more favorable attitudes toward the insanity defense than did psychologists. Experience with being an expert witness concerning the issue of insanity correlated positively with favorable attitudes toward the insanity defense. Both very conservative and very liberal individuals doubted the validity of the insanity defense, although the reasons differed. The second study used a single case narrative and sampled 68 psychologists and 68 psychiatrists from the same population base. After 2 followup mailings, complete returns were received from 36 psychologists and 29 psychiatrists. The results supported the study hypothesis that the attitude toward the particular case would be predictable from the more general attitude toward the insanity defense. Although the findings appear to give more support to critics than to supporters of the insanity defense, the need exists for a mechanisms to handle those regarded by society as incapable of conforming to the law. Experts' explanations about defendants' motivations are probably more helpful to the jury than are their opinions regarding sanity or insanity. Thus, experts' testimony should be limited to opinions about the defendant's mental or motivational state before and during the offense. Data tables and a list of 26 references are supplied.
Index Term(s): Expert witnesses; Insanity defense; Psychiatric testimony; Technical assistance resources
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