Another Forensics Scandal

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

From the Seattle Times, a story as amazing as it is infuriating:

For a quarter century Greenberg testified as an expert in forensic psychology, an inscrutable field with immense power. Purporting to offer insight into the human condition, he evaluated more than 2,000 children, teenagers and adults. His word could determine which parent received custody of a child, or whether a jury believed a claim of sexual assault, or what damages might be awarded for emotional distress.

At conferences and in classrooms, in Washington and beyond, he taught others to do what he did. He became his profession’s gatekeeper, quizzing aspirants, judging others’ work, writing the national-certification exam. His peers elected him their national president.

But his formidable career was built upon a foundation of hypocrisy and lies. In the years since Greenberg’s death, while court officials wrestled over his estate, The Seattle Times worked to unearth Greenberg’s secrets, getting court records unsealed and disciplinary records opened.

Those records are a testament to Greenberg’s cunning. They show how he played the courts for a fool. He played state regulators for a fool. He played his fellow psychologists for a fool. And were it not for a hidden camera, he might have gotten away with it.

It’s another lesson in fraudulent self-proclaimed forensics experts, but also in the perils of the larger problem of “the cult of expertise.”

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25 Responses to “Another Forensics Scandal”

  1. #1 |  goober1223 | 

    “I have my shotgun… You have your briefcase. It’s all in the game though, right?”

    Sorry, I’m in withdrawal after zooming through the series for the first time. I need somebody to watch it with me before I start again.

  2. #2 |  overgoverned | 

    What a joy it would have been to watch the cross at that Air Force court martial, though.

  3. #3 |  Jesse | 

    I thought this was just going to be about someone that used his position as expert unethically for financial gain.

    I didn’t realize it would devolve to the point of him being a perverted creep. Interesting the accusation of narccissism. Some of them are really incorrigible.

  4. #4 |  Mario | 

    This is another example of the sociopaths among us, as the title of a recent book suggests. That guy had no conscience. Apparently, many more people than previously thought are like this. They don’t all become serial killers. The bulk of them are high-functioning. I wonder how many of them go into corrections, law enforcement, district attorney’s offices, or other aspects of our justice system.

    Maybe psychologists ought to come up with a test to identify these S.O.B.’s — presuming the psychologists aren’t cut from the same crazy cloth.

  5. #5 |  Pablo | 

    It is also another example of the expert witness who can’t be contradicted. I see this a lot in domestic violence cases. If a spouse claims to be abused he/she is actually being abused because victims don’t lie about that. If they deny any abuse then that proves they are being abused because denial is part of being a domestic violence victim. Same thing with child molestation.

  6. #6 |  Andrew S. | 

    SEE, Radley? That’s what happens when you privatize forensics labs!!!!

    (couldn’t resist)

    Seriously, this makes me sad. Both that he was able to get away with it for so long and that he escaped justice by killing himself.

  7. #7 |  Gideon Darrow | 

    “In court, testifying, Greenberg described Graden as ‘quasi-psychotic,’ but said the diagnosis was tricky, because Graden might appear ‘quite normal.’ She would likely deny doing anything wrong to her son, Greenberg said, or alternatively, she ‘might genuinely not remember.'”

    The fact that she seems sane just proves that she’s crazy. This is exactly the kind of bullshit that makes people hate shrinks.

  8. #8 |  goober1223 | 

    @ #7

    I’ve never seen a shrink, but I have no idea how such a statement could be accepted by a court of law. “If she confesses, she’s crazy. If she doesn’t, she’s crazy. If she appears normal in all of this, it’s just because she’s a special kind of crazy… So, where’s my check?”

  9. #9 |  Cyto | 

    The fact that she seems sane just proves that she’s crazy. This is exactly the kind of bullshit that makes people hate shrinks.

    Well, that and the idea that the best case scenario is that you are dealing with one person’s subjective opinion.

  10. #10 |  the innominate one | 

    Mario: see MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory)

  11. #11 |  Davebo | 

    I wonder how many of them go into corrections, law enforcement, district attorney’s offices, or other aspects of our justice system.

    The ones who fail or never attempt a private practice. God I’m cynical. But it’s not silly to be.

  12. #12 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @4 – Or how many of them go into the stock markets. How many become CEO’s, and so on.

    The correct, current term isn’t sociopath by the way, it’s “antisocial personality disorder”, and some forms of business *actively select* for people with it, because it stops them from being hindered by things like ethical concerns.

    Which is one reason why regulation on companies is necessary.

  13. #13 |  André |

    New Jersey bill on sexting. It looks like (gasp!) common sense.

  14. #14 |  Aresen | 

    Confronted, in a lawsuit, about his misreading of Poole, Greenberg said: “The data is that psychologists are no better than anyone else at determining when someone’s lying based on interview.”

    In this case, he was telling the truth, which is why one must ask “If the supposed expert can not do better than the average layman, then what is the value of the expert testimony.”

  15. #15 |  croaker | 

    Threadjack: Seattle cops leave loaded assault rifle on trunk lid

  16. #16 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    “The cult of expertise”

    The phenomenon has a name-o.

  17. #17 |  Dan | 

    In the comments section of this article are two significantly poignant posts by the mother Cathy Graden. Sometimes you just feel for the victims of an outrage like this, there are other times though, that inspire.

    I am inspired.

  18. #18 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    The bizarre thing is that what took Greenberg was the video peeping tom charges, not the extensive evidence of incompetence and corruption as a forensic psychologist.

    I’m not sure it’s solid that the stated conflict of interest in the Grady case (a custody battle in which the ex-husband’s lawyer was in a failed business with Greenberg) is as important as that Grady had to pay for therapy to someone Greenberg had appointed, even though the limited business partner issue was enough to get Greenberg in trouble, though not enough trouble.

  19. #19 |  JdL | 

    … but also in the perils of the larger problem of “the cult of expertise.”

    Couldn’t agree more. All too often there’s an additional layer of anonymity added, as in “news” stories that say, “Experts tell us [whatever].” But as this case illustrates, even when the “expert” is testifying without anonymity, he may be completely full of S***.

  20. #20 |  Joe | 

    The whole notion of expert witnesses for psychology is a sham and should be barred. A disgusting and disturbing story.

  21. #21 |  Joe | 

    And not letting a party see the report or hear the expert testify? WTF!

  22. #22 |  Mario | 

    Leon Wolfeson @ #12

    I don’t know that you’ll get much sympathy for regulation of corporations on this forum. My guess is that politicians are, by and large, implicitly selected for antisocial personality disorder. So, even if I were sympathetic to government regulations, I don’t know that I would trust the people in government to be capable.

  23. #23 |  Pablo | 

    #15 croaker–that is hilarious, and disturbing. It was mentioned on Today show this morning (the show is usually BS but I have to have some background noise in the morning).

    It will be interesting to see what, if anything, is done to the officer that rifle belongs to. I think it’s safe to say that if you or I or any other private citizen left an (apparently loaded) AR-15 lying around unattended on a busy street we would, at the very least, be charged with reckless conduct.

  24. #24 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @22 Mario – Politicians MAY have it. However, CEO’s and business leaders by and large DO have it, since as I said, they actively select for it in a way which the Western politician system doesn’t.

  25. #25 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Leon (#24)

    Maybe, but the thing is you don’t have to deal with CEO’s and business leaders. You do have to deal with government agents as they have a monopoly on violence.

    See it is that last part that makes government worse by far.