The Psychologically Vulnerable Witness: An Emerging Forensic Consulting Role .
R. I. Simon,
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
29(1): 33-41, 2001.
The role of witness consultant is emerging as forensic psychiatrists and
psychologists provide valuable input as participants in witness development teams. Anecdotally,
retained experts also have undertaken a witness consultant role when asked or pressured to do so
by the retaining attorney. Forensic psychiatrists and psychologists with extensive treatment and
testimony experience may be of assistance to attorneys in preparing psychologically vulnerable
clients and nonparty witnesses to tell their stories effectively at trial. In addition to litigation, other
venues of witness consultation include administrative, congressional, and state legislative
proceedings. In litigation, the witness consultant works directly with the attorney in support of the
attorney's counselor role with the client. As an agent of the attorney, the identity of the witness
consultant is shielded by the attorney-client privilege. The witness consultant does not meet face
to face with the witness unless otherwise indicated. Collateral sources of information are used in
providing witness consultation. The witness consultant can identify and provide management
techniques for the psychological issues that threaten to impair a witness's ability to testify
effectively. The consultant also may be able to assist the attorney who is experiencing difficulty in
his or her relationship with a client or a nonparty witness.