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Sex Crimes - Study brings accuracy of state expert testimony into question

A wide variety of factors can influence the outcome of a sex crimes case. However, a verdict may come down to which party presented the most convincing evidence and testimony. Throughout the course of a criminal trial, witnesses who can offer specific insight are often called to testify in order to sway a jury. These individuals are expected to rely on their experience and sound professional judgment to present an accurate interpretation of evidence.

In many cases involving sex crimes, forensic psychologists may testify about the issues involved in a case. Their testimony can play a big role in whether or not an individual is fit to stand trial or what kind of sentence should be handed down if a conviction is reached.

According to a study conducted by researchers at a major university, forensic psychologists may not always be unbiased. In fact, they may present an opinion in court based on who they believe hired them. For instance, if prosecutors bring a psychologist into court, that person may feel inclined to present an especially unflattering portrait of the defendant regardless of whether or not it's an accurate assessment.

The researchers conducted their study using case files involving alleged sex offenders. Forensic psychologists were given the case information, told who had hired them and provided opinions that varied depending on who they believed had hired them.

It's important that fairness is maintained at all times in criminal court. As such, it may be crucial for defense teams to work hard to verify the accuracy of claims made by witnesses, especially those who may be inclined to present biased views.

Source: Popsci.com, “Researchers Expose Troubling Bias In Forensic Psychology,” Francie Diep, Aug. 28, 2013

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