On the Millennium Trilogy
Confidential: Forensic Psychological Report–Lisbeth Salander
By Marisa Mauro
Courts of law oftentimes come upon questions that cannot be adequately addressed by the efforts of the legal system alone. On these occasions, the court may allow the use of experts to assist the triers of fact–the judge and jury–in understanding information or evidence that is beyond the knowledge of a reasonable person. Expert witnesses are special in that they may provide opinion in their testimony. This is in contrast to laypersons that are limited to recounting direct observations.
An expert’s journey to the witness stand often begins when they are retained by the defense or prosecution for the purpose of aiding their case. Other times experts are appointed through court order or by agreement of the parties. Prior to offering expert testimony, individuals must be qualified as an expert by virtue of their knowledge, skills, experience, training, or education.
Psychologists and related professionals have become permanent fixtures within the legal system. As expert witnesses, they may be called upon to provide testimony relating to a variety of matters at the intersection of mental health and the law, including such issues as competency to stand trial, mental state at the time of the offense, treatment recommendations, and risk assessments.
All experts must take care not to become a hired gun, a hazard that may be avoided by simple adherence to professional ethics and standards. Less ethical professionals may be lured, however, by promises of compensation for testimony, favoritism, and the like. At the very least, such professionals risk losing their credibility as expert …