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Andrea Harner
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August 12, 2008

In U.S., Expert Witnesses Are Partisan By Adam Liptak, NY Times

This article discusses what we often touched on in my psych & law class last semester: the role of expert witnesses.

Here are some highlights:

...Dr. Leonard Welsh, the psychologist who testified for the state, said he sometimes found his work compromising.

“After you come out of court,” Dr. Welsh said, “you feel like you need a shower. They’re asking you to be certain of things you can’t be certain of.” He might have preferred a new way of hearing expert testimony that Australian lawyers call hot tubbing.

In that procedure, also called concurrent evidence, experts are still chosen by the parties, but they testify together at trial — discussing the case, asking each other questions, responding to inquiries from the judge and the lawyers, finding common ground and sharpening the open issues. In the Wilkins case, by contrast, the two experts “did not exchange information,” the Court of Appeals for Iowa noted in its decision last year.

“Judges think that if we could just have a place in the adversarial trial that was a little less adversarial and a little more scientific, everything would be fine,” Professor Edmond said. “But science can be very acrimonious.”

Melvin Belli, the famed trial lawyer, endorsed this view. “If I got myself an impartial witness,” he once said, “I’d think I was wasting my money.”

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