Mark S. Brodin
"Both fields,those ofMental health and Law,.
.. speak two different
languages [and] have different customs and casts ofthought.
noses do not convey legal truth.
Legal 'truth' and scientific 'truth'
may have nothingto do witheach other."1
From its earliest use in American courts, when one Dr. Brown offered
opinion in a
posed fundamental issues for our system
At its most
basic the quandary is: How can we utilize specialists to educate a lay
jury about matters beyond their ken without at the same time intruding
upon the jurors' central role as ultimate factfinder?
In recent years courts and commentators have focused considerable
attention on one dimension of this problem—assuring some degree of
"reliability" regarding the principles and methodologies underlying the
expert's testimony before it is heard by the jury.
twentieth century courts
this assessment to the practitioners in the particular field under a
"general acceptance" standard.4
Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals,
* Professor, Boston College Law School. B.A.,J.D., Columbia University. This project received
generous financial support from the Darald andJuliet Libby and Dr. Thomas Carney Funds. The author
wishesto acknowledge the very insightful suggestions made on earlier drafts by Michael Avery, Robert M.
Bloom, andJohn Garvey, and the invaluable research assistance of Meredith Ainbinder, Deshala Dixon,
Jonah Goldman, Ryan Littrell, and Danielle Porcelli.
24 PACE L. REV.211,211-12 (2003).
AndreA.Moenssensetal., ScientificEvidenceinCivilandCriminalCases 6 (1995)
(citing A Trial of Witches at Bury St. Edmonds, 6 HOWELL'S STATE TRIALS 687, 697 (1665)); John V.
Jansonius & Andrew M. Gould,
Expert Witnesses in Employment Litigation: The Role of Reliability in Assessing
50 BAYLOR L. REV. 267, 270 (1998). "The accused were found guilty and hanged. No issue
seems to have been raised in that case concerning the validity of the process for determining whether one
was a witch." Reed v. State, 391 A.2d 364, 370 n.7 (Md. 1978).