Critical Evaluation of Court Case

Critical Evaluation of Court Case

Professional & Ethical Issues in Forensic Psych

Argosy University

Upon reviewing the case Commonwealth of Virginia v. Allen (2005) it is my determination that Dr. Boggio, who testified for the commonwealth, acted more unethically in certain aspects. Dr. Boggio was licensed to practice in the state of Virginia. He was also treating Allen prior to the court case and the information he gathered was done so throughout Allen’s treatment with Dr. Boggio.

Dr. Boggio, as a professional, was participating in a dual role/relationship with Allen. This is due to the fact that on one hand he was treating Allen, and on the other he was acting as an expert witness against Allen. According to the APA Code of Ethics and the Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Professionals, it is necessary for professionals to utilize wise judgement to protect their professional relationship with the client and as well as judgement as to how this relationship will be handled as he decides and begins testing Allen and testifying as an expert witness against him. A large question arises as to whether Dr. Boggio, having treated Allen previously, can remain impartial and unbiased. The doctor’s testimony included information gathered from Allen when he was treating him as a patient. Dr. Boggio’s opinions were largely based on the previous gathered information and thus it would seem that his thoughts may be biased as he had prior knowledge of the client’s thoughts and behaviors and now the doctor was using this information against Allen.

We have to take into consideration the Specialty Guideline that deals with fairness and impartiality. This guideline states “forensic professionals must be impartial and unbiased in the information they offer as professionals in the setting regarding legal issues” (American Psychological Association, 2011). In his testimony Dr. Boggio came off as “convincing” which is rightful but concerning. This is due to the fact that he shared information that could be labeled as confidential and should have been kept between him and Allen. Furthermore, as an expert witness, Dr. Boggio, acting under the Code of Ethics and Specialty Guidelines, should have limited his testimony to data gathered from current examinations or evaluations he had administered to Allen. This guideline states “expert witnesses are to stick to the facts at hand in the case and not give opinions that is not factual but only on data from the defendant’s information gathered from examinations or evaluations administered by him” (American Psychological Association, 2016; American Psychological Association, 2011). 

Additionally, forensic psychology professionals should avoid these conflicts all together if possible. An expert witness should generally not testify in the case that involves a client they are currently treating. This is to aid in the reduction of any bias or doubt in the case. It has been suggested that if a practitioner is asked to deliver either concurrent or sequential forensic and therapeutic services, “forensic practitioners are encouraged to disclose the potential risk and make reasonable efforts to refer the request to another qualified provider” (American Psychological Association, 2011). In the event that they are not able to get another professional to handle the case, “the forensic practitioner is advised to consider the risks and benefits to all parties and to the legal system likely to be impacted, the possibility of separating each service widely in time, seeking judicial review and direction, and consulting with knowledgeable colleagues” (American Psychological Association, 2011).

Furthermore, Dr. Boggio was still considered Allen’s clinician and could reasonably cause damage to the doctor patient relationship which had been built between them by testifying against him with the Commonwealth of Virginia. This could be considered a violation of both ethical codes relating to the dual relationships guidelines. The Specialty Guidelines further detail this issue in section 4.02.01 which regards conflicts between therapeutic roles and expert testimony from clinicians giving services (American Psychological Association, 2011).As stated earlier, to avoid and bias or impartiality, Dr. Boggio should have refused to testify on the behalf of the Commonwealth and found another clinician.

In regards to the decision, I would agree with the majority. While Dr. Boggio’s testimony and information provided regarding the defendant was sound, he played a dual role as he treated the client and then provided this testimony (Commonwealth of Virginia v. Allen, 2005). While he may have, as it is not clearly made known in the case summarization, Allen would need to give his consent for Dr. Boggio to divulge the information he did when he provided his testimony to the court per the Specialty Guideline which stipulates that “forensic practitioners recognize their ethical obligations to maintain the confidentiality of information relating to a client or retaining party, except insofar as disclosure is consented to by the client or retaining party, or required or permitted by law” (American Psychological Association, 2011). To me, this made me lose all credibility in Dr. Boggio.

As there was no previous relationship between Dr. Foley and Allen, the dual relationship principle does not apply and subsequently neither does the conflict of interest. This leaves out undue bias and impartiality and brings more favorable light on him. Furthermore, Dr. Foley’s actions prior to the case helped gain him credibility. This is due to the fact that he requested permission to evaluate Allen from the Virginia Board of Psychology. This gesture was honest as he acknowledged that he was not licensed to practice in Virginia (Commonwealth of Virginia v. Allen, 2005). Not having any previous relationship with Allen, Dr. Foley could provide an unbiased evaluation of Allen as it would not be based on previous information gathered from Allen through a therapeutic relationship.

Since Dr. Foley requested and obtained permission form the Board of Psychology in Virginia, his expert testimony was accepted to the court as it proved he was professional as well as acted ethically and was qualified to provide the evaluations and expert testimony required (Commonwealth case Virginia v. Allen, 2005). I feel it was a good decision that the court determined that Dr. Boggio’s testimony may be biased. As our classroom reading stated “competent forensic mental health professionals practice required objectivity, even during those times when it may be difficult to be objective. It is important for forensic mental health professionals to be aware of situations in which they cannot maintain objectivity and to take appropriate action as necessary” (Argosy University Online, 2016).


American Psychological Association. (2016.). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association. (2011). Specialty guidelines for forensic psychology. Retrieved from

Argosy University Online (2016). Biased in Testimony. Retrieved from.

Commonwealth of Virginia v. Allen, 609 S.E.2d 4 (Va. 2005). Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/bethb/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/IE/QQGD636T/1041454.pdf