Whores of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony and the Rape of American Justice

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9780060391973: Whores of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony and the Rape of American Justice

A scathing expose of the fraud inherent in the use of "expert" psychological testimony in the courtroom.

From the high-profile murder trials of the Menendez brothers and Jeffrey Dahmer to personal injury, product liability and child custody cases, lawyers across the country have increasingly turned to "expert" testimony from psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers to influence the decisions of judges and juries.

Psychologist Margaret Hagen, a professor and medical industry insider, details the very real danger of this booming business. In every state, a child can be taken away from a parent on the strength of five minutes of "neutral" testimony from a social worker. A criminal suspect's freedom or incarceration can depend on a superficial psychological examination performed by an incompetent, overworked, or, at worst, paid-off psychologist. Parole hearings hinge on the testimony of similarly incomplete or fraudulent evaluations, allowing "rehabilitated" violent criminals back onto the street to commit more heinous crimes, with no accountability for the reviewing "expert." Unmasking some legal psycho-expertise as a total fraud, Dr. Hagen instructs readers to protect themselves and their families from being victimized by psychological testimony in the courtroom. In today's frenzied legal climate, her insight and wisdom make for provocative, compelling and invaluable reading.

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Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction

This book was originally inspired by that most banal and most questionable of motives--personal outrage.

In the summer of 1993, in Seattle, my older brother was sued for $3.4 million in a civil case alleging psychological injury.

There was no evidence as such in this case. The trial itself consisted of a parade of half a dozen psychological experts of various types, all declaiming that the plaintiff suffered from one mental disorder or another and that the disorder--with all the attendant negative effects in her life--had been caused twenty years earlier by the accused, my brother--a person whom none of them had ever met.

The defense consisted of another witness parade of experts, this time experimental psychologists, all arguing that memory does not and cannot work as the plaintiff claimed, that psychoexperts have no special expertise at all in verifying such claims, and certainly no expertise in determining the historical cause of a current psychological condition.

I had heard of such lawsuits before, of course. Who has not? But as they had not directly touched the life of anyone I knew, I paid them no more attention than did the other experimental psychologists busy with teaching, research, and writing. My own area of research is visual perception, particularly issues of art and geometry. That has nothing at all to do with theories of the repression and recovery of traumatic memory.

After my brother's trial--he did win, if anyone can be said to win after being subjected to such an appalling accusation, at a defense cost totaling some $90,000--I began to take a closer look at the activities of my clinical colleagues in the world of law. I found that they were everywhere with their fingers in every half-baked legal pie cooked up by the wildest of imaginations. What a shock.

From Kirkus Reviews:

As its title indicates, this is an unqualified jeremiad against what the author feels is the ``psychologization'' of the American legal system. Hagen, a psychology professor at Boston University, makes a great many valid points. She argues persuasively that clinical psychologists often proclaim the most authoritative conclusions based on the flimsiest of anecdotal evidence, and that diagnoses have proliferated beyond all sense (including such hopelessly vague, utterly unverifiable ones as ``urban psychosis'' and ``intermittent explosive disorder''), and that claims of ``psychological injury'' are vastly overused and have greatly inflated damage awards in tort cases. Yet for all her righteous indignation at the ``unscientific'' nature of psychological theory and practice, Hagen herself is prone to wild generalizations, as in her statement that ``the central premise of American clinical psychology is that the individual at birth is an infinitely malleable lump of clay.'' Surely the author knows that there is no ``central premise'' to contemporary psychology, but many competing schools. Too often, as in her claim that ``most mental health `treatment' is about as effective as laetrile for cancer,'' a statement belied by some of the evidence presented elsewhere in the book, Hagen writes with the kind of dismissive, snide tone more often found among barroom polemicists than serious academics. The author's approach in arguing against all use of psychological experts in courts, rather than more selective and better-regulated use of them, further undermines her case. There are also too many hectoring asides. For instance, Hagen asserts that as a society we have ``lost faith'' in the ``power of the individual,'' resulting in our absolving individuals of their criminal acts. How would Hagen square this assertion with the fact that America has the second highest imprisonment rate of the 15 leading industrialized countries? If Hagen is on to something, her grating, absolutist style makes her a poor advocate for her provocative hypothesis. (Radio satellite tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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