Getting the Most out of Your Expert: Preparing and Cross-Examining Experts on Competency and other Mental Health Issues

Last November, I was asked to be a speaker at the Virginia State Bar’s Tenth Annual Indigent Criminal Defense Seminar-Advanced Skills for the Experienced Practitioner to take place at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on May 2, 2014. Of course, I jumped at the chance to speak in front of 850 experienced criminal defense lawyers on a topic that I have been studying, practicing, and teaching about for the last two decades–forensic assessment. The topic that I was asked to speak about was one that I had presented on at the National Criminal Defense Forum on Forensic Mental Health and the Law in Denver, CO in September, 2013. The topic–Preparing and Cross-Examining Experts on Competency and Other Mental Health Issues–is one that is important to me, given the amount of time I spend training doctoral students and mental health professionals around the country about how to conduct forensic assessments for the courts.

Having been retained in a number of high-profile and important cases, either to act as an evaluating expert or, more recently, to act as a consulting expert who assists attorneys in retaining, preparing, and cross-examining defense and prosecution experts, has given me a unique opportunity to see first-hand the errors in evaluation, report writing, and testimony committed by mental health experts. The purpose of this presentation is to provide legal professionals with an understanding of what to look for in an evaluating expert, how mental health evaluations are to be conducted, the ethical and professional obligations of the forensic evaluator, the content to be included in (and excluded from) written evaluation reports, and how to use an evaluating expert to assist in the cross-examination of an opposing expert. I have included a copy of my slides as well as links to the materials that I reference throughout my talk below for those in attendance who wish to access these materials at a later point in time as well as for anyone else who might stumble across this webpage as a result of a search for information on this topic.

Thank you for the opportunity to be with you for this excellent program!

VABarClick above to Download a PDF of the Presentation Slides


Miscellaneous Resources

Attorney CST Questionnaire

Competence-Related Domains and Relevant Areas of Inquiry

Sources of Collateral Information

Interdisciplinary Fitness Interview – Revised Training Manual

Download Manual as a PDF

National Judicial College’s Mental Competency Best Practices Model Website and Resources

Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology 2013 PDF

APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct


Reference Materials

Download as a PDF

Download as a PDF

Download a PDF of Chapter 2 Evaluation of Competence to Stand Trial in Adults

Download as a PDF




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