Use of Expert Testimony
Expert testimony is often used for psychological assessment, as it provides an opportunity to explain people’s behavior. When a professional evaluates, one’s emotional and mental state one can prove or disprove the discussed reasons for the crime as well as some intentions of the defendant. Moreover, expert testimony can define whether one is to be placed in the hospital or put in jail. Professionals can link a defendant to a crime with the help of a special assessment.
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They can pay attention to the evidence and claim whether one’s fault can be proved (for example, which the help of DNA or fingerprints). Finally, experts are the ones who need to prove that research is valid and reliable (Fulero & Wrightsman, 2008). If it is not peer-reviewed, testable, and made according to the standards, the judge can omit its results.
Among the problems with expert testimony is the problem of power. They control the way the information is provided during the testimony. Even the order in which evidence is revealed and the words used to describe some element or event can affect the outcome of the case by defining the way the judge and the jury perceive it. Moreover, experts should always be impartial, which is almost impossible due to the human factor.
Even when they are sure that a person is guilty of some crime, they cannot modify the evidence or discuss the issue revealing their attitudes, as it can influence the outcome. Finally, the expert is a person responsible for relating knowledge, defining a standard for reporting, and validity of the tool used to diagnose information (Fulero & Wrightsman, 2008). In this way, experts should make sure that they do not contradict, exaggerate, or omit the information even unintentionally.
Psychologists involved in testimony may fill that they needed to support a party that hired them regardless of what the evidence and assessment show, as they receive payment (Fulero & Wrightsman, 2008). Fortunately, nowadays experts are mainly chosen to represent the uninvolved third party, but some biases rest. For example, in the case with Menendez Brothers, the expert turned out to be manipulating and controlling (Abrahamson, 1993). He claimed that the defendants said only the things he was interested in it, and failed to assess them decently. In this way, it might be beneficial if a psychological testimony was provided by two or three professionals who did not discuss the case with each other.
Aggravating of Mitigating Factors
Mitigating factors often make the crime discussed in the case look better, from a more positive perspective. They seem to justify committing a crime. Aggravating factors, on the other hand, make the crime look more terrible (Fulero & Wrightsman, 2008).
For example, during Joshua Komisarjevsky’s trial, it was stated that killing with smoke inhalation is not cruel (Christoffersen, 2011). Such a claim is rather questionable, and it can hardly be used to justify the murder, but as the jury heard it, they got affected. Still, the man’s long history of robberies is an aggravating factor that was mentioned (The Associated Press, 2013). Knowing that the defendant was a criminal already, made the jury believe that he can commit more crimes.
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All in all, there were 5 mitigating factors and nine aggravating ones, which affected and determined the outcome of the case (Lenamon & Kennedy, 2010). Mainly, these factors are not critical, as they do not disprove the evidence. In some cases, it might be better to select the sentence based on the crime but not related factors that vary from person to person.
Abrahamson, A. (1993). Witness for Menendez brothers attempts to discredit therapy session tape in which they discuss killings. Web.
Christoffersen, J. (2011). Lawyers for convicted Cheshire killer cite sex abuse. Web.
Fulero, S., & Wrightsman, L. (2008). Forensic psychology. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Lenamon, K., & Kennedy, R. (2010). Cheshire Connecticut home invasion trial penalty phase – demonstration of how mitigation factors play out under Connecticut law. Web.
The Associated Press. (2013). Home invasion suspects had long rap sheets. Web.