Forensic psychiatrists have multiple skill sets to offer attorneys in instances where issues related to mental illness lie at the crux of the case. The best known role for a forensic psychiatrist is that of the expert witness. As an expert witness, a forensic psychiatrist is able to perform a variety of evaluations related to criminal or civil issues at the interface of mental health and the law. Based on the evaluation and the context, a report is often generated to be used for legal purposes and the expert forensic psychiatry witness may be asked to testify in a deposition or at trial regarding his or her findings.
Equally valuable, but perhaps less utilized, is the role of the consulting expert in terms of psychiatry and the law. In the consulting role, a forensic psychiatrist is retained by a hiring attorney or interested party and work behind-the-scenes to offer expert guidance and suggestions. In this role, the forensic psychiatrist does not author a report or opine formally on the stand or in any way provide expert witness testimony; rather, the consultant serves in the “shadows” to assist the attorney with any relevant facets that may emerge in a case. Examples of forensic psychiatry consulting expert roles include record review of case documents to highlight psychiatric concerns, providing strategic advice regarding the decision to retain an expert witness, critiquing an expert report, offering cross examination suggestions, and consulting regarding areas of psychiatric vulnerability that may be targeted by opposing counsel.
At Rocky Mountain Forensic Psychiatry, we have extensive experience working closely with attorneys in the behind-the-scenes consulting role. For more information, contact us.