Like many college students before her, Antonia Re Qua changed majors prior to settling into a program that fit her education and career goals. Re Qua, now a junior in the Psychological Sciences Program, began her studies as a Physician Assistant student at Daemen and is thrilled with her decision to change majors.
“The Physician Assistant Program is an incredible program,” said Re Qua. “It takes unwavering dedication and commitment to succeed. After taking several classes, I realized that I had to fulfill my desire to work in psychology and decided to change majors.”
It wasn’t long after joining the program that she found herself applying to work on an independent research project with Dr. Denise Emer. The Psychology Department Chair gave a lecture on the process of determining witness creditability in American courtrooms and later challenged her students to question the credibility of the process.
“During trials, partisan witnesses are often used by both the prosecution and the defense to strengthen their cases. The sitting judge is responsible for determining the credibility of the witness, and unfortunately, many judges are not properly trained to that,” said Re Qua. “It’s important because people’s lives may be at risk if unscientific evidence is used to determine someone’s guilt or innocence.
Re Qua explained that the admissibility of expert witnesses' testimony in legal proceedings is called the Daubert standard. The standard provides the judge with the authority to determine if the testimony from a partisan witness is based on scientific knowledge, reliability, and whether or not it was established through scientific methodology.
Re Qua believes that her research may prove that a comprehensive database of experts is needed for use throughout courtrooms across the country. The database would be populated with vetted, reliable, professionals and scholars, and will allow judges to access to credible, partisan witnesses.
With the help of Dr. Emer, Re Qua requested a grant from the Student-Faculty Interdisciplinary Research Think Tank and was quickly awarded funding to help with her research.
The team is currently working on a comprehensive survey that will be distributed to lawyers and judges across the country. The questions are designed to measure the attitudes, beliefs, and potential complications pertaining to the Daubert standard. Upon the completion of the survey, Emer and Ra Qua will analyze their findings and pursue publishing opportunities.
Ra Qua has enjoyed the research process and is motivated to continue her research.
“I hope that I can make a difference,” she said. “My hope is that our research can influence the judicial process and allow for fairness for both defendants and prosecutors.