Testifying In Court A Guide for Mental Health Professionals

How to Make a Powerful Presentation on the Witness Stand


  • Conducting the forensic evaluation
  • The final written report
  • Preparing for court testimony
  • Responding to the direct examination
  • Responding to the cross-examination
  • The judge and the jury

Dr. Richard Gardner first became involved in providing court testimony in the early 1960s while in military service in West Germany. He testified both in military courts and German civilian courts. In subsequent years, he testified in hundreds of cases in 25 states and various parts of Canada. However, he did not just sit on the witness stand and provide testimony. Rather, he has been an astute observer of the courtroom scene, giving deep consideration to courtroom procedures, the legal system, and the role of the mental health professional who provides services in the context of these proceedings.

Accordingly, Dr. Gardner was in a unique position to advise mental health professionals on how to testify in courts of law. In the introductory chapter Dr. Gardner describes the evolution of his experiences in the courtroom, from his early days in Germany to the present. Next, he provides a brief history of the adversary system, which can serve well as background material for those examinations in the context of courtroom proceedings. Next, he provides guidelines for preparing the court report. He then provides useful advice designed to assuage fears of providing testimony and thereby enhance the expert’s efficacy on the witness stand. The chapter entitled “The Day in Court” covers swearing in, providing credentials, direct testimony, and cross-examination. Particular emphasis is given to the cross-examination, the most demanding aspect of testimony, the aspect that generally generates the most fear in those who testify. Next he discusses judges and juries, especially with regard to the expert witness’s relationships with them. Last, he provides recommendations for changes in the legal system, changes which would enhance the usefulness of mental health professionals in courts of law.

This book contains a wealth of information that should prove useful to any mental health professional who provides testimony in a court of law. As is typical of Dr. Gardner’s previous publications, general theoretical principles are elaborated upon with specific details designed to provide practical information as well as specific techniques with which his advice can be utilized.

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