Category: Psychology

Expert WitnessExpert Witness TestimonyPsychology

Voodoo Cases Trigger Memories of Child Witchcraft Expert Witness Request

In an article posted today in the Associated Press on Yahoo News brought back memories of one of the most unusual expert witness requests ever received. In the article from Yahoo News, Voodoo followers fear a backlash after two separate crimes against children were committed in the last two months. Due to similarities in the crimes, authorities have identified Voodoo rituals as a motivating factor in the injuries sustained by the child victims.

The two cases happened in Massachusetts. The first crime occurred in East Bridgewater, MA, when two sisters were arrested for restraining and burning a 5-year-old girl in an attempt to rid her of a demon. The child suffered permanent disfigurement. The violence against the child was described as a “Voodoo ritual.” Nearly a week later in Brockton, MA, a mother was arrested for stabbing two of her children in what the mother described as “Voodoo stuff.”

Two separate crimes, within close proximity, and both mentioning or characterizing rituals as related to Voodoo, have upset followers of local community members who practice Haitian Vodou, as they fear the crimes will result in a backlash against their culture and religion. The article explains “practitioners of Haitian Vodou, which adherents spell differently to distinguish it from other variants, say the religion does not sanction violence and fear the crimes will spark a backlash against their community.”

Reading this article sparked a memory of one of the most interesting cases presented to me during my time with Experts.com. It was not the most high-profile expert witness request I had ever received, but it was one of my first international expert requests.

The Child Witchcraft Expert Witness Request

Criminal defense counsel out of UK had contacted me via email. He was looking for several expert witnesses. His first two requests were common enough: forensic psychiatrist and child psychologist. It was the third request, for a Child Witchcraft expert, that forced me to do some in-depth research and search beyond our database to located the appropriate expert witness. First of all, I had no idea to what the attorney was referring. This was the first time in my life I had ever heard of the “Child Witch Phenomenon” or “Child Witchcraft.” As such, the research on the subject was basically to educate myself on the topic before I started contacting expert witness candidates.

While researching, I discovered… In several countries in Africa (Nigeria, Congo and others), there is a severe cultural and religious fear of witches as they are the crux of evil. According to this 2010 article from CNN, “Pastors in southeast Nigeria claim illness and poverty are caused by witches who bring terrible misfortune to those around them. And those denounced as witches must be cleansed through deliverance or cast out.”

Often, children are the ones accused of being witches. In order to cleanse the child, they are beaten, tortured, and sometimes buried alive. Some children have been stabbed to death in an attempt to free them from the witch’s grasp.

Religious leaders in some African countries have taken advantage of this belief in Child Witchcraft. They will offer to expel or exorcise the witch for a price. A pretty good way to make a living if you are dealing with a poor and uneducated populace. Rather than being made aware of mental health disorders that could be impacting a child’s behavior, these pastors have made a living preying on a family’s fear.

How did the case make it to the UK?

The UK has a large immigrant population. Those emigrating from areas in Africa where the Child Witch Phenomenon is rampant, now find themselves in a new country with new laws and a different appreciation of mental health disorders and treatment.

At the time we processed the referral for a Child Witchcraft expert witness, I recall there having been 10-12 UK-based criminal trials involving Child Witchcraft allegations. A child appears uncontrollable, possibly dealing with early onset mental illness, and the parents seek the counsel of religious leaders. Those leaders recommend exorcism. Exorcism involves violence, the child is severely harmed, the police get involved, and criminal complaints are filed. The prosecution begins.

Is this now happening in Massachusetts? Instead of the Child Witch Phenomenon, is the State dealing with a similar Voodoo-based phenomena?

How do we as a society, address these types of issues before the child is endangered and the parents are on trial? Is it a matter of educating parents, community, and religious leaders about mental illness? Do we need to improve awareness of treatment? Your comments are welcome!

 

Expert WitnessPsychologyUncategorized

NFL investigating Panthers for possible breach of concussion protocol

According to this article on Yahoo, the NFL and the NFL Players Association have opened an investigation into whether the Carolina Panthers violated the concussion protocol for quarterback Cam Newton on Sunday.

This armchair pundit can tell you in watching the replay, Mr. Newton took a pretty solid hit to the head. Thereafter, in walking towards the sideline he fell to his knees. According to Yahoo, Cam Newton only missed one play. You may have wondered, as I did, what is the NFL’s concussion protocol. For that I turned to SBNation.com where they lay out the protocol as follows:

  1. When a potential concussion is identified the player shall be removed immediately from the field.
  2. The NFL team physician and the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant (UNC) will:
    • Review the video of the play
    • Perform a focused neurological examination
  3. Madden Rule: If there is suspicion of a concussion, the player will be escorted to the locker room for a full assessment
  4. If the player is diagnosed with a concussion, there is NO same-day return to play
  5. If the player passes the exam, he will be monitored for systems throughout the game.

As we witnessed on Sunday, Cam Newton was only ushered to the blue medical tent and then back to the bench. We have to assume the team physician and the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant did their due diligence to protect him from further harm. Mr. Newton claimed after the game there was a problem with his eye rather than a head injury. I’m of the mind that the human eye is a part of the head and further examination may be necessary. Then again, I am only playing a doctor in this piece.

Why am I concerned about this protocol and the possible failure to adhere to it? In the last 8 years I have seen the reports and talked to the expert witnesses who testify about traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The real doctors take it very seriously. The damage from CTE is immense and life altering.

I can tell you from my personal experience, the number of doctors specializing in TBI and CTE has at least doubled (probably tripled) in my time at Experts.com. They come in a wide range of medical specialties:

My concern is the medical professionals do what is right for Cam Newton, even if he is only interested in getting back to the game.

With all this said, I want to invite a couple of my friends, both lawyers and former college football players, to respond on this topic in their own time and on their own blogs.

So, to Bernard Nomberg of Nomberg Law Firm and Morris Lilienthal of Martinson & Beason, what say you? Did the Panthers fail to follow protocol? Does the protocol need to change?

UPDATE: January 12, 2018

We asked for input from the lawyers mentioned above. We have received both of their responses in blog posts!

From Morris Lilienthal – Protecting Players: Following Concussion Protocol is a Must.

From Bernard Nomberg – Big Hit on Cam Newton Calls into Question NFL Concussion Protocol.

 

Psychology

Mistrial Due to Expert Witness Testimony

A Stamford, CT judge declared a mistrial yesterday in the sexual assault case of a minor by police officer, Anthony Santo. Attorney for Santo, Gary Mastronardi, filed a motion for a mistrial after testimony offered by Child Guidance Center ‘s Dr. Larry Rosenberg, was so prejudicial to Santo that, “even striking his testimony would not keep the jurors from considering it in their deliberations.”
Interestingly enough, in a case argued by Mastronardi earlier this year, Connecticut’s Supreme Court upheld an appellate court reversal of the conviction of a Fairfield man on felony risk of injury charges. The Supreme Court agreed that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing an Expert Witness to indirectly testify about the truthfulness of a complaint’s allegations.
In this case, Dr. Rosenberg, a Psychologist, testified that 93 percent to 95 percent of the children who alleged sexual abuse are being truthful. The other five to seven percent were found to be coached by a parent. As there was no divorce or custody dispute in this case,  the inference was too strong that the girl was a victim of sexual abuse. “He went too far,” said Mastronardi. “He improperly and inappropriately commented on the credibility of the witness….” Comerford admitted that an error had been made in allowing Rosenberg’s testimony on the percentages of truthful minor sex-abuse victims. As a result, substantial damage was done to the defendant’s case. “Essentially what he was saying was the woman was telling the truth,” Comerford said. Based on the Supreme Court’s earlier decision regarding the truthfulness of a complaint’s allegations, Comerford granted Mastronardi’s motion.

Psychology

Psychology of Negotiation

What is the best way to approach a legal opponent?  Some would say the old “adversarial”  attack is the most effective – to come out with fists flying.  In other words, YOUR agenda as the TKO.  From a psychological standpoint, a little sparring would better serve your purpose.

It is common in many sports to put yourself in the shoes of your opponent so that you can better anticipate their moves.  The same is true for legal negotiations.  According to Dr.  Kenneth J. Manges, PhD, a Forensic Psychology Expert, sometimes it is necessary to, “…Give your perspective a rest and invest yourself in opposing counsel’s position.”  In his article entitled,Psychologically Speaking©: Negotiation 101,” Dr. Manges goes on to say, …”Role playing your opponent will prepare you for their way of thinking, which will in turn get you thinking more clearly about how you have to counter what they have to offer.”

Read Dr. Manges’  Full Article

Dr. Kenneth J. Manges is a Vocational and Psychological Expert with over 30 years of experience. He is certified in Forensic Psychology, Emotional Trauma, Wage Loss, Disability, and Crisis Intervention and is recognized as an Expert in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder