"Hired guns," "whores," and "prostitutes": case law references to clinicians of ill repute.

  • Douglas Mossman
  • Published 1999 in
    The journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry…


The "hired gun phenomenon" is a recurrent topic in forensic psychiatric shop talk, but scholars have conducted very little systematic investigation of how courts respond to the suggestion that mental health testimony is "for sale." This article examines the issue using findings from a computer search of court decisions that make, or refer to, derogatory statements concerning mental health experts. The search strategy, using the root words or search terms "(prostitut! or whore or hired gun) w/100 psych!," yielded 567 cases, 45 (7.9%) of which contained comments about professionals' ethics. In 35 opinions, professionals were termed or compared with "hired guns"; five cases described testifying experts using the word "whore," and five cases used some variation on "prostitute." Most cases referred to psychiatrists (rather than psychologists); specific clinicians were identifiable in 26 cases. Over half the remarks occurred in appeals of criminal convictions and concerned psychiatric testimony at trial or before sentencing. Prosecutors were the most common sources of disparaging statements; appellate courts usually disapproved of their remarks but did not reverse convictions. Appellate decisions themselves were the second most frequent sources of derogatory remarks. These findings document the perception among legal professionals that many mental health experts are unscrupulous.

Cite this paper

@article{Mossman1999HiredG, title={"Hired guns," "whores," and "prostitutes": case law references to clinicians of ill repute.}, author={Douglas Mossman}, journal={The journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law}, year={1999}, volume={27 3}, pages={414-25} }