Expert testimony in cult-related litigation

Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 1989;17(3):257-67.


The work of forensic psychiatrists has expanded into the controversial area of cases involving new religious movements. Challenges to the expert witness in such cases include new questions and a large body of relevant literature. Published appeals decisions have appeared with judicial comments on the conduct of the involved experts. This article presents the comments about expert witnesses from judges who decided cases involving the major new issues of coercion both in recruitment into and forcible abduction from cults, and competency to join and make donations to these groups. The judicial comments are evaluated using relevant literature from the fields of law, psychiatry, and religion. This provides a basis for general observations and suggestions regarding the involvement of psychiatric experts in cult-related cases.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Coercion
  • Dangerous Behavior
  • Expert Testimony / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Female
  • Human Rights
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • United States