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NCJ Number: 98117 Find in a Library
Title: Social Scientists in the Courtroom - The Frustrations of Two Expert Witnesses (From Courts and Criminal Justice, P 81-91, 1985, Susette M Talarico, ed. - See NCJ-98113)
Author(s): M G Gertz; E J True
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 11
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 contrast between the adversary and scientific approaches to knowledge is explored in the context of the authors' experience as expert witnesses and with reference to the use of social science research in trials involving the battered woman syndrome.
Abstract: The authors were expert witnesses in a murder trial in which the accused had killed her husband by shooting him while he slept. The authors were asked to evaluate the testimony of the defense expert, who claimed that the murder was inevitable because the wife suffered from the battered wife syndrome and learned helplessness. The authors' lengthy testimony and the cross-examination led them to conclude that communication was not taking place because of their inability to present information in a way useful in the courtroom and because of lawyers' inability to comprehend what social scientists know. In this and other cases involving the battered woman syndrome, lawyers' inability to recognize the proper point of attack in a methodological discussion is one crucial problem. Another issue is the problem of getting the legal community to understand the concept of reliability. The cases of Berle v. State and Hawthorne v. State illustrate how the advocacy process disrupts the traditional means of scientific inquiry for checking erroneous arguments. Despite these problems, social scientists can still have a role to play. The idea of having the social scientist work for the court rather than for the prosecution or defense should be explored. The adversaries could attack the expert, but the role of the expert would be more clearly defined in a neutral manner. The goal in an exploration of alternatives should be to see how the social scientist's approach and the needs of lawyers can be integrated. A figure, list of 5 cases, and 18 references are provided.
Index Term(s): Battered woman syndrome; Expert witnesses; Witness credibility
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