On Being an Expert Witness: It's Not About You
Department of Psychiatry
Medical Subject Headings
Expert Testimony; Forensic Medicine; Forensic Psychiatry; Ethics, Professional
Health Services Research | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology
Expert testimony, for many mental health professionals, is fraught with anxiety. In this article, the authors attempt to alleviate this anxiety with a simple recipe for professional, ethical, and economic success as an expert witness. Because experts are essentially getting paid for their credibility, this is one area of practice where the most ethical behavior can also be viewed as the most likely to lead to economic success. First, a review of relevant U.S. case law and rules governing the legal admissibility of expert testimony is provided. Next, issues that should be considered prior to taking the stand are discussed, including the value of seeking consultation and how to decide when to accept a referral. Finally, prudent and empirically supported strategies to manage direct testimony and cross-examination are suggested, including how to approach the “ultimate issue” issue, and how to be persuasive without abandoning our duty to tell the “whole” truth, especially including the parts we may not find convenient.
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Citation: Dvoskin, J. A. & Guy, L. S. (2008). On Being an Expert Witness: It's not about you. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 15(2), 202-212. doi:10.1080/13218710802014451.