Psycho-Legal Attorney Consultation
Psycho-legal consultation with a forensic psychologist can be helpful when a forensic evaluation of the client may not be necessary or appropriate, or when the need for an expert witness is not indicated.
We meet with attorneys to review psychological matters relevant to the case to assist them in understanding the complexities and nuances of the issues. We provide assistance in telling your client’s story and using powerful case narratives and building case themes to clarify or amplify the psychological elements of your case.
"It has been said that trials are like theater. The attorney who tells the most compelling story is most likely to prevail."
Expert Witness Testimony
The expert testimony of a forensic psychologist can help educate the judge and jury on the psychological elements of a case. Evaluating a potential expert based on credentials and experience is only half the picture. Particularly when an expert is addressing a complicated subject like mental disorders and their role in the alleged offense, jurors may have difficulty understanding and rely instead on heuristics, like credibility, for evaluating the testimony. Research shows that jurors tend to rely on their opinion of the expert rather than the expert’s opinion itself.
Being an expert in a field is not synonymous with being a skilled expert witness. There is a science and an art to conveying information to the trier of fact in an articulate and accurate manner that is easy to understand.
Connecting with jurors and earning their trust is paramount to an expert’s credibility and effectiveness. When you are litigating criminal cases, it is important that the psychological issues be clearly understood by legal counsel and by the trier of fact. Consultation with an expert in forensic psychology will support you in presenting a more powerful and compelling case to the trier of fact.
What makes an expert witness credible and effective?
Knowledge is the primary reason experts are called to testify. The knowledge of an expert can be viewed as the degree to which an expert is perceived to be well informed, competent, or perceptive and to possess or exhibit intelligence, insight, understanding, or expertise. However, the expert must be able to effectively portray and explain the content to the jury in a way that is comprehendible based on their limited understanding of the topic. Although the knowledge of an expert witness based on their education, experience, and certifications is important, observed knowledge very much differs from that of on-paper credentials. Knowledge in this context refers to the expert witness’ ability to effectively explain the content they are discussing. It is essential for witnesses to be able to effectively explain the topic as if they were speaking to a layman, which makes up the majority of juries. For example, the use of visual aids and non-verbal communications such as hand gestures can greatly increase the jurors’ views of the expert’s knowledge of the topic.
Dynamism/ Ability to “Teach”
An expert’s extensive credentials mean little if they cannot clearly relay and explain their opinions to the trier of fact. An expert may be a distinguished expert in a given field, but if they cannot clearly explain the concepts to the judge or jury, their persuasive power diminishes. The best way for experts to showcase the extent of their expertise is to act as teachers and relay a story to the jury. These factors serve to distinguish a good expert from a great one.
The ability of a witness to exude charisma and dynamism is greatly important. An expert witness may endear themselves to a jury by using simple vocabulary or metaphors and remaining steadfast and inquisitive during cross-examination.
Experts emanating dynamism, coupled with a display of their deep passion and mastery of the subject matter make for an effectual testimony.
Vorwerk Forensic Psychology, Inc.
27525 Puerta Real,
Mission Viejo, CA