SJ Quinney College of Law, University of Utah
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Abstract

This Article reviews the use of mental health experts to provide testimony on the future dangerousness of individuals who have already been convicted of a crime that qualifies them for the death penalty. Although this practice is common in many states that still retain the death penalty, it most frequently occurs in Texas because of a statute that makes it mandatory for juries to determine the future dangerousness of the defendant they have just found guilty. Both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association have protested the use of mental health professionals in this setting because there are no scientifically valid methods to make these predictions for people who face long periods of incarceration in maximum-security prisons. Existing models of prediction consider the behavior of individuals in the free world. Moreover, the Supreme Court has upheld these predictions of dangerousness in capital sentencing hearings on the grounds that neither of the protesting professional organizations actually license mental health professionals. Therefore, this Article suggests that these state licensing boards be held responsible for assuring mental health professionals do not testify beyond the scope of medical support or evidence. In so doing, it analyzes cases in which health care professionals, in general, have been held responsible by state licensing boards for testimony that is beyond what is acceptable practice in that profession.

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