Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mississippi Supreme Court Unimpressed with Social Worker's Reliance on "Instinct"

The Supreme Court of Mississippi has faulted the trial court for giving even slight weight to testimony from a social worker in a custody dispute, when the testimony should have been excluded altogether. Asked to describe the basis of her custody recommendation, the social worker testified as follows:
A. What [the child] told me and how she behaved in therapy.

Q. Is there any recognized textbooks or science with regard to how you would reach your conclusion or recommendation?

A. There is no exact science in psychology. There's a lot of experimental science, but as far as reaching conclusions, a lot of it you go to training, instinct, and -- mostly training.
"There is no evidence," the high court said in its opinion, "that [the social worker's] opinion was either 'based upon sufficient facts or data' or 'the product of reliable principles and methods.'" See Giannaris v. Giannaris, No. 2005-CT-00498-SCT (Miss. July 19, 2007).



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Looks like so much of cases happening in courts in Mississippi.

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In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Fifth Circuit has upheld a trial court's decision excluding a criminal defendant's proffered expert evidence on false confessions.
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Fed. R. Evid. 702: If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.