chapter  1
10 Pages

The Law’s Infl uence on Change in the Evidentiary Rules and in the Realm of Sentencing Mitigation

ByPaul F. Th omas

As discussed in the introductory chapter, recent decades have marked signifi cant evolution of substantive and procedural law, through landmark litigation, legislation, and regulation that has broadened the range of legal issues that may allow for the expertise of mental health professionals, especially forensic psychiatrists, in achieving resolution. From its notable focus on the insanity defense and a defendant’s competency to participate in criminal proceedings, psychiatric expertise has been relied upon in other phases of the criminal justice process (e.g. compelled treatment to restore competency; post-conviction treatment; sentencing; post-conviction habeas proceedings). And, increasingly, forensic psychiatrists have been called upon for their expertise in civil cases claiming emotional injuries and trauma, in family and probate court, and in administrative adjudications involving claims for benefi ts from agencies such as the Veterans Administration and the Social Security Administration, and claims for relief from deportation. In all of these realms, the opportunity for forensic psychiatric participation has been guided, if not controlled, by rules of evidence governing the admissibility of expert testimony generally, and particularly by the liberalization of the rules to recognize the value of properly qualifi ed experts in the adversarial process.