Dr. Ebert spent many years as an officer in the United States Air Force. While on active duty he developed the first formal guidelines on how to conduct a sanity board consistent with Rule of Military Evidence 706 which sets forth the standards for a sanity board. It was also during that time Dr. Ebert and some other working independently established “Whole Trial Consultation.” This new application of forensic psychology entails the expert participating in all aspects of the trial which, in the military, is a court martial. It begins with a call from a defense counsel or a prosecutor often when an event comes to the attention of legal personnel. The earlier the better to bring Dr. Ebert into a case. The activities and roles are described below. He participates in the entire trial from pre-trial consultation to travel prior to trial and sits in during every aspect of the case. Whole trial consultation involves interviewing witnesses and crime scene analysis along with involvement in the entire trial from pre-trial motions until the very end.
Dr. Ebert has been involved in more than 650 court-martials and works for the Government and the Defense. He has taught for many years at the JAG School of the Air Force in Montgomery, Alabama. In addition, Dr. Ebert has traveled all around the world assisting counsel for the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines. In the past Dr. Ebert was recognized as the best forensic psychology consultant in the world. Most counsel have found it is extremely helpful for a forensic psychologist to know the Military Rules of Evidence and even more helpful to know the case law behind them. MOST MILITARY COUNSEL FIND IS EXTREMELY HELPFUL TO THEM TO HAVE AN EXPERT WHO KNOWS THE MILITARY RULES OF EVIDENCE AS WELL AS THE CASE LAW SUPPORTING THEM.
WHO IS IN CHARGE: ROLE RELATIONSHIPS IN THE CASE:
It is critical that we all understand and agree on the various role relationships that exist while we are working on the case. It is also critically important that we all know and understand who is in charge. I am hired by you as a Consultant. I am never in charge of the case. I am not functioning in my role as an attorney but as a forensic psychologist with a detailed understanding of the law. I work for you and I expect to take direction from you. As one sage expert stated “I am a forensic psychologist but I don’t check my brain at the door.” You do not work for me. Given my vast experience I will communicate many ideas regarding how to proceed in the case and how to use me properly and effectively. My feelings will not be hurt if you reject my ideas. It is your job to assign tasks for me to accomplish or to approve or disapprove of suggestions I make to you. I am nothing more or nothing less than an integral part of the team but not acting in the role of lead counsel. Every case is different. One key difference in roles is that I am bound by ethical standards that have nothing to do with winning a case. My job is to bring scientific principles of psychology to the case and to remain objective. Here are some tasks I often perform in most cases:
- I provide ideas for voir dire questions of perspective members (jurors);
- I review member data sheets and confer with counsel about who may be the most impartial versus those who may have questionable impartiality;
- I discuss which members may be best for the case with counsel during a break. Many times counsel will request a 10 minute break stating to the judge Amay we have some time to consult with our expert;
- I almost always interview alleged victims especially if the alleged victim is a child;
- I conduct interviews with key witnesses with the trial team and ask questions as a team member;
- I almost always interview opposing experts especially if they are mental health professionals. I have been helpful in interviewing other witnesses such as neurologists, family practice physicians, pharmacists, pathologists, pediatricians, radiologists, nurse practitioners and other specialists;
- I usually interview mental health professionals who are either fact witnesses or treating therapists including psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists, social workers, licensed professional counselors, psychiatric nurses, rape crisis counselors or any lay therapists involved in the case;
- I assist in developing cross examination questions for any opposing experts who might testify in the case;
- I provide points that I think may be appropriate to cover in the opening statement;
- I offer suggestions about exhibits;
- I assist in developing cross examination questions for fact witnesses;
- I often provide questions for witnesses who might be called on our side;
- I typically assist in drafting questions for any experts, including myself, that might be called for by a member of our team;
- I usually sit in court for the entire trial taking copious, if not verbatim notes of the procedure and all the testimony of the witnesses;
- I provide assistance in dealing with motions from testifying in a motion to assessing the impact on a victim who might testify;
- I spend time with you and other counsel to build our connection as a team member. I realize there is somewhat of an age gap. I am older now and this may be one of the first times you have worked in a team with an older member. I have a great sense of humor and enjoy working late with you as a team member, not as a know it all;
- If I am a member of the prosecution team I generally interview all victims and provide support for them during the trial. I also make recommendations on how to provide the best support for victims in order that they may provide the most honest and credible testimony possible;
- If I am a member of the defense team I generally interview the accused if this fits with the overall defense strategy. I also interview victims if I am allowed to do so. I may even conduct a forensic evaluation with testing if this fits with the overall strategy of the case;
- If there are opposing experts, my job is to keep them honest and help them only testify in areas consistent with the professional and scientific literature.
- I often consult with counsel at the end of the trial both by email and in person to provide ideas for closing argument. I am not mad or upset if you don’t use my ideas.
SAMPLE OF BASES WHERE DR. EBERT HAS PROVIDED SERVICES:
The President of the United States has decided to provide trials for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. These trials are very much like court martials. Dr. Ebert has been involved in the Commissions issue from the very beginning. He is expected to participate in some of the trials. He will report on these cases when they occur.