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The National Educational ready o network presents a law in the news with Professor Joseph R. Julan associate dean of the University of Michigan Law School. The verdict was guilty and guilty of murder in the first degree. A leading scholar in the interplay between law and psychiatry has characterized the hand trial as one of the most effective trials in terms of the use of psychiatric testimony in recent memory. That's the appraisal of Dr. Andrew S. Watson a member of both the law and medical faculties of the University of Michigan. Dr. Watson Why do you reach that conclusion. Well Dick usually in these kind of trials the psychiatric testimony on one side or the other will be a rather poor caliber and so we have what is ordinarily called a battle of experts. This usually is the battle of in experts in experts psychiatrists and in expert lawyers in this trial both the defense and prosecution expert witnesses are
very capable men. They're very familiar with the legal problems with which they were responding. And so the jury got excellent presentations which they could truly evaluate and then come to some kind of a logical conclusion about their feelings about Sirhan. Similarly the lawyers in this case were very familiar with psychiatric concepts. So there was good communication effective communication so that in the end the jury had the issue clearly in its lap about whether or not they wanted to find Sirhan guilty of first degree or second degree murder. Andy I've often heard it said that while there may be expert lawyers and experts psychiatrists they don't speak the same language. And when a psychiatrist is talking about responsibility he means something quite different from what the late juror or a trained lawyer may mean in terms of criminal responsibility. Is that a problem in a trial such as this. Yes it is. This in the last trial in the last analysis is an exercise in
communication efficiency. If if the parties and their experts don't present the data clearly they can't remote the jury cannot remotely scramble with the appropriate issues. Now this is what was so fine in this trial Dr. Diamond who is the principal defense witness is a very very learned man in relation to law and he talked. He presented his material in the frame of reference of the law which is as it should be. Dr. Pollack similarly is very very familiar with legal concepts and he talked in a language that made his presentation relevant to the law. How would you describe the true legal issue if you would put it in psychiatric terms. Well in this case the true issue is does the jury believe that this man was sufficiently disturbed so that they do not want to punitively handle him. They got the testimony I think it was quite clear from both experts that they viewed him as sick. It's just a question of whether or not he was sick
enough to conform to the standard of law. Now in the last analysis one of these kinds of trials relates to whether or not the jury can identify itself with the defendant. Understand what made him do what he did and then back away and make some kind of a judgment about where they want to punish him or whether they would rather have him treated. And this takes effective communication. I know your answer to this question is going to be yes but would you explain briefly if you can just how you were able to accomplish it re creation of the Act and the mental attitude of the perpetrator of the act. Well this goes to the nature of our theory we believe that to use an old cliche as the twig is bent sociale it grow in other words each of us develops patterns of behavior which are discernible identifiable by an expert observer and the task is to figure out what the man's behavior was like in his patterns
Law in the news
Psychiatric testimony
Producing Organization
University of Michigan
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program discusses psychiatric testimony, particularly in the case of Sirhan Sirhan's trial.
Series Description
This series focuses on current news stories that relate to the law.
Broadcast Date
Public Affairs
Politics and Government
Media type
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Producing Organization: University of Michigan
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Julin, Joseph R.
Speaker: Watson, Andrew S.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-35a-411 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:04:55
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Chicago: “Law in the news; Psychiatric testimony,” 1969-05-06, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 27, 2023,
MLA: “Law in the news; Psychiatric testimony.” 1969-05-06. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 27, 2023. <>.
APA: Law in the news; Psychiatric testimony. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from