Judges’ views on evidence of genetic contributions to mental disorders in court

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8 Scopus citations

Abstract

This preliminary analysis assesses how judges view the use of behavioral genetics evidence on genetic influences to mental disorders in court. Twenty-one semi-structured interviews, analyzed using constant comparative analysis, were conducted with California trial court judges. Most judges reported the beneficial effects of this evidence being presented in court, particularly as a mitigating factor for sentencing. Yet some judges viewed it as an aggravating factor and expressed concerns about genetic privacy. Judges described initial reactions to being potentially presented with evidence on genetic influences to mental disorders as apprehension, curiosity, and sympathy. Judges also reported putting significant trust in experts on these issues. Findings suggest some judges are skeptical of this evidence, but largely open to its presentation. Sympathetic reactions may result in mitigating attitudes of some judges. As judges significantly trust experts, some judges could also be overly trusting of genetic evidence and expert opinion on these issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)586-600
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology
Volume27
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 3 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Keywords

  • Judges
  • behavioral genetics
  • court
  • expert witness
  • mental disorder

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