Expert Testimony About Behavior of Child and Spouse Abuse Victims

The courts currently send criminal defendants away, sometimes for the rest of their lives because of expert testimony about the behavior of child and spouse abuse victims. (People v. Morgan (1997) 58 Cal. App. 4th 1210, 1213 [where victim of alleged domestic battery recanted at trial, expert testimony on battered woman syndrome was properly admitted to bolster her earlier assertions the defendant had beat her]; People v. Jackson (1971) 18 Cal. App. 3d 504, 507, 95 Cal. Rptr. 919 [medical expert testimony about battered child syndrome was properly admitted to explain child's injuries were not inflicted by accidental means]; see also 1 Witkin, Cal. Evidence (3d ed. 1999 supp.) The Opinion Rule, 493, pp. 191-192.) Conversely, we acquit accused murderers on the basis of expert testimony about "battered woman's syndrome" and like psychological states. (Evid. Code, 1107, subd. (a) ["In a criminal action, expert testimony is admissible by either the prosecution or the defense regarding battered women's syndrome, including the physical, emotional, or mental effects upon the beliefs, perceptions, or behavior of victims of domestic violence . . ."]; People v. Humphrey (1996) 13 Cal. 4th 1073, 1087-1088, 921 P.2d 1 [expert testimony regarding battered women's syndrome was relevant to whether the defendant actually believed she needed to kill in self-defense]; see also 1 Witkin, Cal. Evidence (3d ed. 1999 supp.) The Opinion Rule, 493A, pp. 192-193.) If this sort of testimony is allowed when a person's liberty and even life may be at stake, it is difficult to justify disregarding expert testimony about how criminals react to the presence of gates and guards and other security measures--and to their absence in civil cases.