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January 13, 1997
Boston University psychology professor Hagen
delivers a damning indictment of the psychologizing—and
undermining—of the American legal system
through judges’ and juries’ reliance
on the well-paid testimony of self-styled psychological
experts. Spouting what often amounts to unscientific,
unsubstantiated psychobabble, these ‘whores
of the court,’ she charges, be they psychiatrists,
social workers, psychologists or others, often
determine whether murderers and rapists are
competent to stand trial, whether a batterer
will be viewed as likely to offend again after
receiving therapy, whether a person experienced
mental injury at the hand of a neighbor or an
unfeeling institution, whether recovered memories
of alleged traumas are genuine. With righteous
wrath and devastating wit, Hagen punctures the
inflated claims of much expert testimony. She
blames liberal and feminist lawyers and apologist
psychologists for what she claims is the courts’
tendency to exonerate perpetrators of crimes
on the grounds that they are victims of mental
illness, dysfunctional families or economically
disadvantaged backgrounds. This sweeping critique
should stir national debate.
Boston Globe, City Edition
Sunday, March 16, 1997
"Margaret A. Hagen, who teaches at Boston
University, picks many bones with the specialists
in Whores of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric
Testimony and the Rape of American Justice (ReganBooks).
Hagen, who holds a doctorate in developmental
psychology, contends that the psychological
helping professions have sold out for money
by giving false or worthless testimony in court.
Beyond that specific
contention, Hagen dismisses clinical psychology
generally, from Freud onward, calling it 'junk
science,' and argues that 'judges and juries,
the people alone, must decide questions of insanity,
competence, rehabilitation, custody, injury,
and disability without the help of psychological
experts and their fraudulent skills'."
Boston Herald, THIRD EDITION
Wednesday, March 19, 1997
in the 'Court'; Hub author dismisses 'psychoexpert'
testimony as ludicrous
BYLINE: By STEPHANIE SCHOROW
psychology professor Margaret Hagen has bitten
the hand that feeds her. Not with a nip, mind
you, but a full-throttle chomp.
She begins by
calling her fellow professionals 'whores'.
Hagen, who has
taught psychology at Boston University since
the mid-1970s, has published a wide-ranging,
no-holds-barred screed against psychiatrists,
psychologists and counselors who testify as
'experts' in criminal and civil courts and child
from nearly every page of Whores of the Court:
The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony and the Rape
of American Justice, (HarperCollins). Hagen,
who has a Ph.D. in psychology, blasts "psychoexperts"
who testify as to a person's past state of mind
or motivations in criminal cases. ("There
simply is no mental stethoscope, no matter how
much our justice system wishes there were.")
She slams the
huge fees forensic psychologists charge for
their testimony, costs often passed on to taxpayers,
as in John Salvi's trial. ('Hey, if you have
to ask how much it costs to be found crazy,
you can't afford it.') She hammers away at the
elevation of 'junk science', including repressed
memory syndrome and Post-Traumatic Shock Disorder.
Belying her strident
tone, Hagen is warm in person, with a soft halo
of blond hair and cheery laugh. The author of
several books on vision and memory, she wrote
Whores after a firsthand experience.
In 1993, her
older brother was sued for $ 3.4 million by
the daughter of a former girlfriend for sexual
abuse allegedly committed 20 years earlier but
only recently remembered. A parade of 'experts'
testified the woman suffered from Post-Traumatic
Shock Disorder caused during childhood 'and
my poor brother was the perpetrator.'
'How could they
know that? They weren't there. There's no evidence
except the woman said so,' Hagen said. 'That
was just astounding to me.'
Her brother eventually
won the case with a parade of his own 'experts'
(at a cost of $ 90,000), and Hagen began a three-year
on newspaper accounts, she cites case after
case in which the inexactitudes of psychology
became legal gospel. She derides good-parenting
tests used to determine child custody. And she
puts no stock in mental health cures for violent
behavior, lumping wife batterers in with murderers.
'There is no
psychological cure for the desire to beat up
women, to rape and murder them. The very idea
that psychotherapy today could even pretend
to such an ability is ludicrous,' she writes.
news editorials call endlessly for ever more
'treatment' for these offenders. This shows
either extraordinary faith or willful blindness.'
Hagen saves particular
ire for testimony about repressed memory of
trauma, contending that the condition does not
exist. 'I've never heard of a case where someone
forgot the Holocaust,' she said.
today's courts are desperate for tools to determine
complex, tricky issues. But 'bringing in pseudo
experts to solve a problem just creates another
may anger many. Sharon Gordetsky, president-elect
of the Massachusetts Psychological Association,
sees a difference between a 'hired gun' and
a witness who provides information the jury
and judge will use as they see fit.
memories have become controversial psychological
issues, 'The fact is many people who experience
trauma have memory disturbances, including amnesia,'
said Judith Herman, Harvard clinical psychology
professor and author of Trauma and Recovery.
forensic psychologist and frequent expert witness,
said professionals help a jury understand actions
that defy common sense, such as the battered
wife who kills an abusive husband while he sleeps
instead of leaving. Walker insists that, yes,
given her clinical experience, 'I have a pretty
good idea within a reasonable degree of certainty'
what is in a patient's mind.
makes Hagen seethe.
'In any case
where the testimony is the product of their
clinical intuition as opposed to science, they
don't belong in court,' she said. 'They lend
an air of spurious authority that is misleading
to the judge and the jury.'"
Baltimore Sun, FINAL EDITION
Wednesday, April 2, 1997
do experts know?
BYLINE: Mona Charen
In the hands of Margaret Hagen, an anecdote
can be a deadly weapon. Here is an example from
her new book, Whores of the Court. . .
Willard Phipps Jr., a Gulf War veteran, was
convicted of first-degree murder . . . for killing
his wife's lover, Michael Presson. Phipps did
not deny killing Presson. . . . He claimed that
he was unable to formulate the mens rea [intent]
for first-degree murder because he was suffering
from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Guinn of Tennessee apparently thought this claim
did not hold water and instructed the jury,
'I charge you that post-traumatic stress disorder
and major depression are not defenses to a criminal
charge.' The judge was reversed on appeal for
being, according to Ms. Hagen, 'unduly wary
of expert psychological opinion.'
illustrates what a rare, free-thinking jurist
Judge Guinn is. Too many American judges and
juries have turned over the weighing of facts
to psychological experts in matters from disability
claims and child custody to murder.
Ms. Hagen would
argue that except in extremely limited circumstances,
the very notion of 'expert psychological opinion'
is a farce.
psychologist herself, she believes that her
profession is qualified only to measure very
limited things about the brain -- perception,
language, learning, cognition and memory. The
rest she dismisses as 'witch doctoring.'
she passionately argues, have no special wisdom
about the human soul. They have no tools to
see what ordinary people miss. There is no science
to labeling people 'depressed' or 'phobic' or
suffering from 'post-traumatic stress disorder.'
It's all intuition, and while that doesn't make
it worthless, it doesn't make it science, either.
You don't have
to buy Ms. Hagen's blanket indictment of clinical
psychology (I don't) to see that her case for
removing psychologists from America's courtrooms
In 1990, George
Franklin was convicted of a murder committed
20 years before (the conviction was later reversed).
The only witnesses against him were his estranged
daughter and her therapist.
explained that Eileen Franklin Lipsker suffered
from post-traumatic stress disorder and had
repressed the memory of seeing her father commit
this crime against her friend for 20 years.
She testified that children often 'repress'
memories of traumatic incidents for many years,
recalling them to consciousness only many years
later. At trial, Ms. Lipsker provided only details
that had appeared in the press.
There is no science,
Ms. Hagen says, underlying the concept of 'recovered-memory
syndrome.' Yet, the word of one expert was sufficient
to get a man convicted of murder. Is it wise
to call such intuitions 'expert testimony'?
Designed to exculpate.
and their lawyer partners have been quite creative
in devising more and more diagnoses designed
to exculpate. There is 'urban psychosis', 'battered-woman
syndrome' and 'black rage', to name just three.
Through an ever-expanding
list of 'diminished-capacity' defenses to criminal
charges, and through the admission of expert
testimony on matters like 'flashbacks' and 'brief
psychotic disorder', the misuse of psychological
testimony is undermining the foundation of our
justice system -- the concept that people are
responsible for their own conduct.
In the civil
courts, things are, if anything, worse. Psychologists
and other therapists routinely bolster the claims
of those who say they cannot work because they
are too mentally or emotionally damaged -- or
so emotionally scarred from sexual harassment
or being fired, or whatever, that they require
millions in compensation.
In the psychologized
American courts of today, they're often getting
what they request. A woman in Washington state
was awarded $900,000 after being fired from
a job at a radio station. Her employer said
she was abrasive and obnoxious. She said that
she had informed her employer of her manic depression
two months before the firing. The jury found
that her dismissal constituted unlawful discrimination
against the mentally handicapped.
Ms. Hagen's indictment
of clinical psychology may be overwrought, but
her advice that we repudiate psychological testimony
is sound. When people seek to reform themselves,
psychology has a valuable role to play, as it
does in treating mental illness. But when it
comes to judging lies or truth, intent or accident,
and good or evil in a court of law, ordinary
common sense is a better guide than psychology."