Expert Witness Case Study

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NECESSARY EVIL – EXPERT WITNESS

*Manavendra Gupta

Justice Denver Dillard was trying to decide whether a slow-witted Iowa man accused of acting as a drug mule was competent to stand trial. The court strongly relied on expert witnesses as the defense alleged that the accused did not fit the parameters of an ordinary man. The conclusions of the two psychologists called upon as experts in the case were ‘polar opposites’. On the one hand, the defendant’s expert who had been a veteran in the field, working for over 20 years, concluded that the accused was mentally retarded with a verbal I.Q. of 58 and did not understand even the proceedings. On the other hand, the prosecution’s expert, who had appeared for more than 200 cases for the state, concluded
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While the standard still demands the judge/court/party is allowed to call upon an expert witness who is neutral, independent and unbiased, the practice still continues where parties pay the expert witnesses who have the ability to sway the judge/jury with their expertise and reputation in the field. In general, an expert witness is primarily under a duty to the judicial body to whom his evidence is to be given to provide independent, objective and unbiased evidence. However, the pressures imposed on an expert from the party employing him, (and thus paying his fees) to lean towards them in giving his evidence, and not to be too fair to the other side, can make this a difficult task indeed. This problem has been recognized in courts in India and around the world. Unfortunately, many common law countries like India, US and UK, using adversarial system, have decided that parties shall opt for their respective experts while others have made an effort to use different means to bring in expert testimony that is fair and neutral in order to reach a just and unbiased decision. I will argue the need for a better system to incorporate expert witnesses especially in adversarial systems such as India and US. I will first draft the problems in the current scenario faced by courts because of partisan experts in both the…show more content…
It has been recognized for years as at the end of day it is merely an opinion. Expert witnesses have been condemned and criticized for years and called names such as ‘hired guns’, ‘ones you cannot do with and you cannot do without’ and ‘necessary evils’. Legal enthusiasts stay divided on the topic. A 1924 case, Leob-Leopold Trial held in Chicago, put two young defendants on trial for a heinous child-murder. Expert psychiatric evaluations were involved where both the parties presented their witnesses. To the judge’s despair both experts gave not only different but opposite conclusions. The defendant’s expert testified that the defendants were mentally unstable while the prosecutor’s expert was on the other side of the spectrum. The presiding judge bought the defendant’s story and decided to acquit the defendants relying on defendant’s expert’s testimony. It later came to be known that he failed to take the correct path of sentencing the defendants to death. In the Loeb-Leopold case, Dean Wigmore, the Dean of Northwestern University, said while criticizing the judgment, where the experts devoted long hours to the study of the defense’s case, consulted only with the defense’s counsel, made preliminary reports to those counsel, cut down those original reports in their testimony, and answered only the questions that were asked by counsel, it was natural and inevitable that their testimony should take on a partisan
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