This article discusses the use of expert testimony in prosecuting those charged with domestic abuse. Part I provides a background on the need and nature of expert testimony in domestic violence cases and the requirements for the admission of such expert testimony. It traces the development of the role of expert testimony in domestic violence cases from its initial exclusive use as a defense tool to support self-defense claims to its present use by prosecutors to explain a complainant's recantation or other puzzling behavior. Part II discusses the appellate cases that have addressed the admissibility and scope of expert testimony offered by the prosecution in domestic abuse cases. It then analyzes the proper uses of the expert testimony, including when the State may introduce the testimony and what guidelines courts should follow to ensure that its probative value outweighs any prejudicial effect on the defendant. Part III applies the existing case law to the uncharted issue of whether the courts should allow expert testimony to explain a complainant's outright refusal to testify. It explains that law enforcement needs to change the prototype of a domestic abuse prosecution from being victim-propelled to one where sufficient independent evidence of the crime is gathered to enable prosecutors to proceed without the victim's cooperation or participation. Concomitant with this shift in focus, prosecutors, such as those in the Moon case, should view expert testimony as an integral component of a victimless prosecution. Part III explains that courts should allow expert testimony to explain the characteristics of battered women to help the jury properly assess the state's evidence in light of the complainant's absence. By limiting the expert to explaining general aspects of battering and its effects, rather than addressing the particular victim or specific acts of violence, the courts will safeguard the defendant against undue prejudice. Over time, the propriety of defense use of expert testimony has been unanimously accepted by the courts. The same judicial acceptance is developing for prosecutorial use of expert testimony on battering. The relevance of the expert testimony is identical in both situations: It aids the jury in assessing the evidence by explaining the effect of battering on the witness. This article concludes that the developing trend of prosecutorial use of expert testimony is an appropriate and necessary tool in successfully prosecuting domestic violence cases.
Audrey Rogers, Prosecutorial Use of Expert Testimony in Domestic Violence Cases: From Recantation to Refusal to Testify, 8 Colum. J. Gender & L. 67 (1998), http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/319/.