Expert witness testimony by psychologists: A survey of judges, jurors and lawyers

Vincent Vindice (1997)

Psychologists who participate as expert witnesses are educators. Their role is often compromised when they are asked to provide ultimate opinions. Ultimate opinions are legal decisions made by judges and juries. This study hypothesized that psychologists who offer ultimate opinions overstep their roles as expert witnesses. This study hypothesized that ultimate opinions were not desired by judges, jurors or trial attorneys. A survey was developed to assess attitudes on this issue. The ultimate issues in the following cases were looked at: (A) insanity defense (NGRI pleas), (B) competency to stand trial, (C) child sexual abuse, (D) battered women who commit homicide, (E) rape trials and (F) violence risk assessments. Results showed that jurors almost "always wanted" ultimate opinion testimony, judges "almost never" wanted ultimate opinion testimony, and trial attorneys felt it to be appropriate "sometimes." Subanalyses within these three samples yielded several factors which influenced these attitudes.