Worshipping Psychobabble

Lately I have become unusually aggravated by so-called psychological “experts” testifying in criminal and civil courtrooms in West Virginia. I have cross examined these so-called “doctors” all-the-way from Monroe County to Berkeley County in the past month.  I have reviewed their reports.  I have come to the conclusion that (big surprise) its all about money.  Yours and mine.  There is an entire industry of people who, with maybe an extra year of college, get to milk the taxpayers for their junk-science counseling and fabricated analysis.  They would not survive in the free market, except of course, in the realm of being “expert witnesses” for litigants who can afford them.

From child custody cases in Family Court, to abuse and neglect cases in Circuit Court, to the evaluations of defendants in criminal sentencing in Circuit Courts, it’s always the same thing: psychoquack gets money, person meets with psychoquack, psychoquack writes a report dribbling on about some test he or she ran on the person and what the results mean and ultimately giving an opinion that’s not worth a grain of salt.

I cross examined an “expert” in an abuse and neglect trial in Circuit Court the other day.  I found out that this guy “examines” parents who are facing termination of their parental rights, upon request by the State (DHHR – who is the party seeking the termination) to the tune of about 20 per month, all “referred” by DHHR, whereby he gets paid at least 400-500 dollars for each “examination”.  That’s about 9,000 to 10,000 per month of income this guy receives from the State to throw these folks under the bus.  I guess it’s no big surprise what his opinion was in my case.  Of course it was that parental rights should be terminated – despite the fact that the treating psychoquack and the social worker both had the opposite opinion.  He was paid for his opinion, and he gave it – regardless of whether it was the right thing to do.

In Family Court cases, “expert” psychoquack witnesses routinely testify, allegedly in the best interests of the children.  But they are nothing more than psycho-prostitutes, where the party who hires them is by default the ideal person to maintain custody of the child(ren).  Is there anything more disgusting than a “professional” who pretends to act in the best interests of a child, but 100% of the time in reality acts in the best interests of the party paying them?  I’d rather associate with inmates.

And then there are the psychoquacks who make a living off of court referrals for evaluations in criminal sentencings.  Many times they charge 3,000 to 5,000 dollars per “evaluation,” and the poor defendant, if he or she has some income or assets, has no choice but to pay it – the judge ordered it.  And for those who are indigent, guess who foots the bill?  Ultimately the taxpayers.  Every one of these reports was about the same: pages and pages of dribble about some scientific and complex sounding test that they ran, and the scores which the defendant scored on each individual test.  Then you turn about 10 pages to get to the very end, and there is about a one page opinion that goes on and on without really saying anything helpful, and which includes “recommendations” which are copy and pasted from some other report that they did the day before.

There.  I’ve released these negative thoughts which have been brewing in my head for quite some time – now you deal with them.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.

WV Father Convicted of Infant’s Murder 27 Years Ago

From the Charleston Dail Mail:

Apparently, there was an autopsy performed on this child back in 1981 which indicated that the infant died as a result of being shaken, but it was never delivered to the prosecutor’s office. Talk about gross incompetence…

Just remember, these are the same medical examiners that make mistakes in the other direction as well. Medical examiners for the most part couldn’t get a job working in a hospital, or in private practice working on actual living beings. Their incompetence and skewed sense of purpose can’t maim or kill a cadaver, but they can cause an innocent person to get convicted.

Read the full article here.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.

Computer Crime Charges On the Rise in WV

The Charleston Daily Mail published a story today about another child porn bust in Kanawha County. This is proving to be an ever-expanding area of criminal law, both nationally and in West Virginia.

Robert Eugene Simmons, 32, was arrested by members of the West Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children task force after giving officers permission to search his computer, according to the criminal complaint.

The arrest comes less than a week after the first child pornography sting in the Kanawha Valley where ICAC officers used peer-to-peer file sharing to observe child pornography distribution. This type of observation has already been successful elsewhere in the state.

The article stated that: “Simmons, and others arrested for distributing child pornography, may face more charges after their computers’ hard drives are examined, said State Police Sgt. P.C. Koerner, who aided in Tuesday’s arrest.”

For any defense attorneys who have not yet faced charges such as these, here is what they have been doing: they seize the computer, it then is sealed and placed in the State Police detachment evidence room. They then have the option of doing a “live preview” of the hard drive to essentially take a peek at what could be on the hard drive. Then the computer is transported to Huntington, West Virginia, to the state’s forensic computer expert. At that point, the proper procedure is to make a “clone” of the hard drive before anything else is done with the computer.

The article further stated that “Each file shared over the Internet has a fingerprint attached to it. What we’re able to do is, we’re able to track where those files are going. As a computer forensics expert will tell you, each file has should be “hashed” which gives you this “fingerprint” – and if that is not done, then there could be some deficiencies with the evidence.

With child porn charges, defendants can be charged in state court, or they can be charged federally. The federal charges bring a minimum sentence of 10 years. If the charges are federal, it can alter your access to the evidence (i.e., computer). Federal prosecutors demand that the defendants attorneys or experts not be allowed to possess their own “clone” of the hard drive, as can be allowed if the charges only exist at the state level. I’m not sure what makes the federal prosecutors God, but for some reason the state police and defense experts are afraid to disobey the AUSA’s demands.

The protocol they use is this: they first make a clone of the hard drive, then the defense clone gets placed in a safe in the evidence room; the defense is given the only key, then when they want to analyze the computer, you are forced to do it under supervision of the state police. Now, if the charges are in state court only, then you can get an order from a circuit court judge to possess a clone of the hard drive. By the way, the feds insist on this even if no child porn has yet been found on the hard drive.

Speaking of experts, it is extremely important to retain an defense expert from the very beginning. The state has an expert are their side from the very beginning. You must have a forensic computer expert who can observe any and all manipulation of the hard drive by the state’s experts, as well as perform his or her own analysis of the hard drive. The important thing here is to prevent spoilation of evidence that could be exculpatory, and to foreclose the possibility of any manufacturing of evidence by the state, as well as to be able to give an opinion at trial regarding the reliability of the state’s procedures. If anyone is in need of an expert for computer-related charges, contact me and I can put you in touch with a very good one.

I think this is a trend we will continue to see in West Virginia, both with child porn charges, and with online solicitation charges. There is not much case law yet in this state for these types of cases, so many of the defenses have not yet been tried as they have in other states.

You can read the full article from the Charleston Daily Mail here.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.