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December 22, 1888

EXPERT TESTIMONY AND MEDICAL EXPERTS.Read before the Section on Medical Jurisprudence at the Thirty-ninth Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association, at Cincinnati, May 9, 1888.

Author Affiliations


JAMA. 1888;XI(25):873-876. doi:10.1001/jama.1888.02400760009001a

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At the Hertford assizes (1699), in the trial of a man accused of murder, the prosecution—as stated by Mr. Justice Stephen, in his learned history of the criminal law. of England—"collected a body of doctors to substantiate the proposition propounded by the crown." This case, says the historian, "supplies nearly the earliest instance of a trial depending largely upon the evidence of experts." It is further said, however, by the learned author—and the fact is significant if well considered—that "the defendant contradicted the evidence of the experts in a way that still shows any one who reads the case, that he was fighting with a perfectly idle superstition."

It is a fact conceded by English law-writers, and indicated by the asperity of medical writers towards them, that English judges have never held medical experts, especially in cases of insanity, in high estimation; while in this country the fact is patent

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