Behavioral Science in the Courtroom

Behavioral Science in the Courtroom

What role does behavioral science play in the courtroom? The answer is many roles. Does psychological theory and application impact the outcome of trials? Over these next two weeks we will look at a variety of areas where psychological and behavioral issues plays a role in the courtroom. You decide what the impact might be.

Trial Consultation


You know from watching high-profile trials and media portrayals that trial consultation is a big part of the legal system. Consultants are often paid handsomely for their opinions on everything from selecting a favorable jury, to helping to prepare witnesses to do their best on the witness stand, to providing expert testimony on a variety of subjects including risk to handling media attention. This is a growing trend in the courtroom, for those who can afford it. Does this place a significant disadvantage to those who cannot afford it or even on the state prosecutors who often work under budget constraints?

Role of Expert Witness


The role of expert witnesses to address the gray areas of perception, memory, mental illness, scientific evidence, and test data can, in some cases, be helpful to a jury in understanding the evidence presented within a context that sheds light on the case. In other circumstances, it can hinder by presenting conflicting perspectives from opposing expert witnesses. The courts have made efforts to create standards for the experts and their testimony; however, these can vary from state to state.

Risk Assessment

Another important concept in expert witness testimony is in issues of mental health questions, where mental health clinicians are asked by the courts to provide an evaluation of a defendant. This raises the issue of confidentiality and its limits. If a mental health professional is asked to do this type of evaluation, who is the client? It is the court. As such, the information obtained by the evaluator is not confidential to the defendant. Since confidentiality is a cornerstone of psychological treatment, how does the clinician handle this dilemma? They handle it by informing the defendant that they do not have confidentiality, that the court will be given the report, and that the defendant needs to be aware of their legal rights.


For this module, read the following in Bartol & Bartol:


Chapter 4 (5th ed.)

Active Learning Discussion Guidelines


In the Active Learning threaded discussion area, respond to the stated questions, including any relevance to and implications on the field of criminal justice. Be sure to discuss the issue(s) to which the question pertains. Remarks can include your opinion(s), but must be based on experience, research, and/or prior learning. Use this exercise to foster a rich dialogue with your colleagues about issues that are important to the field of criminal justice.




During the span of the discussion, you must post to the board on four unique days.




Your initial posting must be no less than 200 words and is due no later than Thursday 11:59 PM EST/EDT. The day you post will count as one of your required four unique postings.


You will also be required to post responses to at least three of your colleagues’ initial postings. Responses must be no less than 100 words, be posted on at least three unique days, and are due no later than Sunday 11:59 PM EST/EDT.

Active Learning Discussion 2


The Active Learning Discussion Question for this module is posted on the Active Learning 2 Discussion Board.




  •     Post an initial response and then post responses to your classmates.
  •     Be sure to review both the Active Learning Discussion Guidelines in the Start Here menu before posting.

Written Assignment 2
Your written Assignment is:

Discuss the role and impact of expert witnesses and trial consultants on juries.

This is a research-based APA review of literature assignment and cannot include any personal opinion, experience, or hypothetical scenarios. Consider using the readings for this module as a starting point and then use the research literature to gain a more in-depth view of what each group deals with in the course of their professional work. This must be in APA format and include a cover page, abstract, discussion, conclusion, and references. Your paper should go beyond the obvious, be written at a graduate level, and must be at least 1,200 words in length. You must use at least two outside scholarly and/or professional sources other than your textbook.  Remember, all resources including, but not limited to, journals, magazine, and/or books must be properly cited using APA style

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