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Juries and Expert Evidence: Social Framework Testimony

Authors
Publisher
Duke University School of Law
Publication Date
Keywords
  • Law
Disciplines
  • Psychology
  • Social Sciences

Abstract

Juries and Expert Evidence: Social Framework Testimony JURIES AND EXPERT EVIDENCE: SOCIAL FRAMEWORK TESTIMONY NEIL J. VIDMAR* AND REGINA A. SCHULLERt I INTRODUCTION During the past decade and a half, courts have been faced with an increasing number of attempts to have social science experts testify about such matters as eyewitness unreliability, post-traumatic stress disorders, or cross-cultural differences in the meaning of behavior. The purpose of the testimony, to which Walker and Monahan have given the generic label of "social framework evidence" in order to distinguish it from other forms of social science evidence,' is to provide the factfinder, usually a jury, with information about the social and psychological context in which contested adjudicative facts occurred. It is presumed that knowledge about the context will help the factfinder interpret the contested adjudicative facts. Courts dealing with the various types of social framework evidence have raised common concerns about both the extent to which such evidence may be helpful to the jury and the extent to which any probative assistance it provides may be outweighed by its prejudicial impact.2 Central to these Copyright © 1989 by Law and Contemporary Problems The authors wish to thank Robert Mosteller for comments on parts of the manuscript. Regina Schuller's contribution was supported, in part, by a predoctoral fellowship in the Law and Social Sciences Program at Northwestern University and by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. * Professor of Social Science and Law, Duke University; Professor of Psychology and Professor of Law (1989-90), University of Western Ontario, London, Canada. t Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University. 1. Walker & Monahan, Social Frameworks: A .New Use of Social Science in Law, 73 VA. L. REv. 559, 560 (1987) [hereinafter Walker & Monahan]. See also Faigman, To Have and Have .ot: Assessing the Va

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