Expert Article Library

Religious Beliefs do not make Defendant Ignorant of Crime

Case Name: United States v. Dupre (Click here for the full text of the case)

Court: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Date: September 06, 2006

Expert: Psychological Expert. Name not specified, Clinical Psychologist - A psychological report was drafted about the defendant to rebut the prosecution’s mens rea case against her.

Issues: Can expert testimony be used to rebut the prosecution’s mens rea theory for a specific intent crime?

Summary of case: The defendant was convicted for Wire Fraud – using the internet or phone or radio or television to promote a scheme to defraud or obtain money with the promise that the victim would receive a high return later. Defendant said that she represented a company that was working to free the funds of former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos. For every $1,000 the victims spent, they were promised $500,000 when the funds were released.

Role of the expert: The psychological report stated that the defendant’s “intense, pervasive religious beliefs” interfered with her ability to see that she was part of a criminal enterprise. The report also said that the defendant had above-average intelligence and was “clearly capable of good judgment”.

Challenges to the Expert's testimony: The prosecution objected to the report, saying that it would confuse and mislead the jury. The district court agreed and did not allow the report as evidence. The court of appeals affirmed.

Summary prepared by Christopher P. Stafford, Student, Golden Gate University, School of Law