The Courtroom and the Quagmire Of psychologist’s in Expert Testimonies. Agnes M. Shoving University of New Haven The Courtroom and the Quagmire of Psychologist’s in Expert Testimonies. The roles and ethical dilemmas of psychologists as exert witnesses in our court system are undeniably ambiguous. These issues of morality can be seen throughout many case studies. When forensic psychologists or psychiatrist provide expert testimony in court they’re supposed to be objective and not use bias judgment.
But is it possible for them to stay equitable without having NY biases towards the side that hired them – either the prosecution or the defense. When the law meets psychology, it’s important that we keep in mind the purpose of the experts testimony because there is always a chance that an expert can manipulate jury members and judges into bias decisions by forcing their own biases onto them. Currant News Event Ethan Couch a 16-year-old teenager while driving intoxicated and way above the speed limit, accidentally but brutally killed four bystanders, paralyzed one Of his passengers, and severely injured the rest.
He was charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault. G. Dick Miller (consulting expert for the defense) testified in court that Couch was a creation of “affluent” (a faux-disorder) and was unable to understand his bad behavior also its consequences caused by his parents teaching him that wealth buys privilege. Judge Jean Boyd sentenced Couch to 10 years’ probation and ordered him to go to a rehabilitation facility paid for, by his parents.
The same judge sentenced a 14-year-old black boy for 10 years to venial detention for killing someone with one, powerful punch. The 14-year- old didn’t have an experienced and expensive defense team to hire a psychologist expert to testify in his defense. Was it morally right not to incarcerate Couch after killing four people while driving under the influence? Also, was it ethically correct for the expert (Miller) to fabricate a disease (affluent) the boy allegedly was suffering from? Empathy or Objectivity To stay objective without biases is clearly challenging to all experts who testify.
The use and misuse of empathy can be contradicting. During training, alnico psychologists and psychiatrist learn how to use therapeutic empathy in psychotherapy. This empathy is intended to benefit the patient. However, the same justification does not exist in forensic examinations. The examiners purpose is a testimony rather than treatment. This may cause conflicts for both the patient and the legal system. (Schuman et. Al, 2010) Expert testimonial issues in history The abuse of psychiatric testimony was not unfamiliar in the 1 ass’s Austria.
The misuse of Freud theory of the Oedipus complex by an expert brought a young man to prison for killing his father. Yet, after two years he was released because Freud and others protested against the misuse of his work. Even thought psychology had evolved over the years the problem of misuse of expert testimonies is still present. (Weiss 2012) Weiss says, “Practicing with honesty and integrity and striving for objectivity are essential to the ethics of forensic psychiatry. ” (Weiss 201 2) Striving for objectivity is a key element in the criminal justice system.
It’s so easy for an expert to lean towards one Side or the other and use biased opinions. Strategies and Common Mistakes Common mistakes made by expert witnesses. According to Alias, witnesses often make the mistake of pretending to have more than superficial knowledge of a report, article or book when in fact they do not have that knowledge. (Alias 1 999) This raises issues. Ethical Dilemma’s The effects of expert testimony should always be positive and educational. Expert psychological testimonies are offered to assist jurors in understanding or evaluating evidence in a case.
However when an experimental psychologist gives expert testimony there is a chance that it will affect the jury in some undesirable way. Jurors may misinterpret, overgrazing, or misapply the information presented by the psychologist and as a result they may come to unjustified conclusions. (MouseKey et. Al, 1986) Analysis The misuse of empathy was one of the key elements in the Couch trial, from the defenses expert. This is a huge issue in the courtroom. Empathy bias expert opinions are common, even though experts try to be fair.
These occur because experts are possibly unaware of the complexity of these issues. In the Couch trial the effect of Millers empathy towards the defendant had a active effect on the objectivity of the evaluation. In addition, during a television interview, Miller was incapable saying the words “the boy killed four people”. He seemed too involved in the case. The history of the psychological expert, compared to the use of other experts, has met difficulties in the system. Psychological reports in general acknowledged a variety of criticism through research.
For instance, where over-use of terminology and speculation, with poor content and style and a failure to include the data from where suggestions were found. Miller did exactly this in the Couch trial. He used a term “affluent” as the defense strategy even thought the phrase is not an accepted term by the ADSM- V and he didn’t back his creation with any legitimate data. There was a failure to provide evidence, which is outside the knowledge of the judge. Also, there was an absence of psychological data.
In the Couch case the defense based their strategy on the psychology expert testimony. They had to prove in some way that the teenager was not fully accountable for his actions. Miller then created a case where he argued a point that he wasn’t knowledgeable about. If fact, he had just come up with a fake disorder that he claimed the defendant was suffering from. The judge accepted the term and gave the boy a very mediocre sentence, 10 years probation and some rehabilitation. Ethical dilemmas were present in the Miller analysis.
The credibility of the source was not studied and the reliability and validity of the expert’s methods were not evaluated, therefore this raises the question if this verdict was ethically wrong. An expert should only be an unbiased educator in the courtroom and not an advocate, in any case. Also, nee shall understand that psychologist experts choices are limited and this should be considered during deliberation. Evaluation Psychology is defined as the science of human behavior. Humans are ever changing and all cases are different.
Consequently, psychology is not an exact or factual science therefore; it will always be contradictory in the courtroom. As an individual science, psychology itself is more valuable than when it meets the legal process. “Affluent” may be a term that convinces a particular judge but it doesn’t seem like a true defense in this manslaughter case. In addition, the black teenager also in a manslaughter case probably did not have the financial recourses to hire an expert like Miller, and couldn’t convince the judge.
The similarities and differences of these two cases open up one’s eyes and lights shine on the unfairness of the criminal justice system. If the Texas court system chooses to take a turn towards rehabilitation in juvenile cases, it should be done equally and not discriminatingly. The theories and evidence discovered here clearly confirm the problems in the courtroom through the news events were used in this research. Empathy as and common mistakes were present in the Couch case that leads a 16 year old to rehab instead of prison time.
Prosecution claimed Couch came from a wealthy family and his parents never disciplined him therefore he should not be placed into the juvenile prison system. When facts are presented in law they tend to be selective. In most cases lawyers and prosecutors only want to win therefore; they only want to win are most likely not interested in the exposure of scientific facts. Psychologists on the other hand, are rather about collecting facts and evaluating all significant variables Han about choosing substitute varieties of the truth.
Psychology and the Law are very different but working sciences individually. The issues rise when these two disciplines meet and experts are not well qualified or if they’re well qualified but biased towards the side that hired them. The trial process in the criminal justice system puts the expert in a position where he/she starts to identify with a team or a mission rather than to stay objective in the case. The psychologist expert should never consider the law in these cases they should always stay objective and be the educator in the courtroom.
Conclusion Experts play a critical role in our court system. The majority of these experts are psychiatrists and psychologists hired by one side or the other. The results of my research suggest that we do need a thorough review across psychology expert witnesses who are employed by the court system and eliminate the faux-kind. Experts should be aware of the conflicts between law and psychology and hence thrive for professional and ethical integrity. Racial discrimination and biases should never be present and the expert psychologist working in the case should always use extraordinary vigilance.