Daniel Murrie of the University of Virginia and Marcus Boccaccini at Sam Houston State University presented new research in the Aug. 28, 2013, issue of the journal Psychological Science that indicates that forensic psychologists and psychiatrists provide the group that is paying them for their testimony with the evidence that group, prosecution or defense, expects to be best for their case.
This is the first empirically devised experiment that elucidates the influence of money on the evidence given by expert forensic witnesses and the resultant sentencing of accused felons involved in cases that involve sexual violence.
The researchers invited 118 expert experienced forensic psychiatrists and psychologists to participate in a work shop on the testing used to evaluate the potential for recidivism in sexually violent predators. In return for the free education the experts agreed to participate in a fictitious (known only to the researchers) consultation for a fictitious state agency reviewing violent sexual offender’s case files. The experts were paid for their participation in the review.
The expert’s assessment of the potential of any given sexual offender to commit the same crime again was entirely dependent on what side of the argument (prosecution of defense) paid them. The expert’s assessment was done using a standard scoring method that is used in the majority of states in the United States to evaluate the potential for a sexual predator to commit the same crime again.
The researchers offer only hope that the justice system will pay any heed to this study and amend the present practices that use expert opinions in sentencing decisions or even in trials.