IPT Book Reviews

Title: Testifying in Court
Author: Richard A. Gardner
Publisher: Creative Therapeutics, Inc., 1995

Creative Therapeutics, Inc.
155 County Road
P.O. Box 522
Cresskill, NJ 07626-0317
(800) 544-6162
$30.00 (p)

This 273-page book by Richard Gardner, a psychiatrist who has been involved in hundreds of legal proceedings over the past 35 years, contains seven chapters of advice to mental health professionals on testifying in court. An addendum contains Gardner's written provisions for serving as an evaluator, and his suggested voir dire questions for attorneys. There is a brief list of references and a short index.

Gardner first reviews the historical development of the adversary system and concludes our current system "has far less to do with the administration of justice than it has to do with the acquisition of money for lawyers" (p. 33). Adversarial proceedings are primarily for people who can afford to pay for them, and considerations of justice play second place to many other factors. Mental health professionals must understand that these factors — which may have nothing to do with their conclusions, the facts of case, or even justice — may sometimes result in their testimony, however competent and well-founded, being completely ignored. But this is the system we have, and Gardner's book provides sound and practical advice on how to most effectively and ethically work within it.

In the next two chapters, Gardner discusses considerations in conducting various types of evaluations and provides guidelines for preparing a written report. His suggestions cover such topics as the benefits of videotaping, suggested ways of arranging one's file, dealing with clients' lying, when to write a long versus a short report, how to organize the material for the report, the importance of avoiding jargon and hyperbole, and pitfalls in using DSM-IV diagnostic labels in custody and sex abuse evaluations.

Next, Gardner tells how to prepare for and testify in court. He discusses the fears most professionals have about court, payment arrangements (get paid up front), the value of charts and videotapes, the use of depositions, the review of records, understanding the rules of the particular jurisdiction, and how to dress (conservatively). When actually testifying, the professional should maintain a neutral and impartial appearance, make eye contact with jurors, and learn about the particular court's rules concerning sequestration and talking to the various parties during breaks. Cross-examination can be difficult and frustrating, and Gardner tells how to deal with forced yes/no and other common types of cross-examination questions.

Gardner devotes several pages to an acerbic discussion of prosecutors in sex abuse cases, whom he sees as uniquely vicious and often psychopathic. He illustrates this with several war stories and then suggests how mental health professionals can contend with the type of duplicitous and misleading cross-examination techniques he has encountered. He next deals with judges and juries and the importance of establishing a good relationship with them and "playing it cool" if the judge is hostile and condescending. He ends the book with recommendations for changes in the legal system.

This is a practical, how-to-do-it book that should be extremely helpful to mental health professionals, especially those who are inexperienced in working with attorneys and testifying in court.

Reviewed by Hollida Wakefield, Institute for Psychological Therapies.

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