National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy
Feigning Sanity: Big Lies and Catch 22’s
of Hospital Forensic Experts and How to Overcome Them
This workshop will outline trial tactics and approaches to overcome difficult, if not, untestable State psychiatric assessments. Help us explore ways to effectively respond to such claims as the forensic patient remains dangerous, although without current psychiatric symptoms, because he is in institutional remission, or may even be feigning sanity!
Any psychiatric patient confronted with a commitment hearing knows the propensity of psychiatric witnesses to blow fog a judge’s way. But when the mechanisms of the criminal justice and forensic mental health systems are brought to bear to place and keep inmates in the locked asylum, all the stops are pulled out of the forensic hype machine. Hospital forensic experts raise the specter of violently or sexually crazed individuals to persuade judges and juries that otherwise preposterous big lies and catch 22’s are not only plausible but compelling.
A forensic patient with a history of violence or drug abuse may exhibit remarkable recovery from once-severe symptoms and establish an exemplary record of nonviolent or drug-free behavior. But the testifying psychiatrist will dismiss such accomplishments as mere institutional remission, attributable at least in part to what is portrayed as the protective, cocoon-like environment of the hospital ward – in essence, extolling the virtues of incarceration, and proffering untestable psychiatric narratives. The State’s expert will predict that such stability is likely to crumble under the terrible stresses of increased liberty. Desperation to overcome an exemplary picture of recovery and absence of psychiatric symptoms has on occasion led a forensic star to suggest that a patient is feigning sanity!
Even when a hospital’s forensic witness grudgingly concedes therapeutic progress on the part of the patient, such expert will almost invariably caution that a “baby steps” approach must be followed in which myriad administrative hurdles must be overcome before release is permitted, and the subject patient is not yet at the end of that procedural path.
This workshop will expose such false hurdles and outline trial tactics and approaches to overcome them (1) using resources such as the patient’s hospital record, writings and previous testimony of the expert, and independent expert testimony refuting claims such as that living in a closed psychiatric ward under the limitations placed on forensic patients is stress-free and conducive to recovery; (2) highlighting distinctions between treating physicians/practitioners and State aligned, hired guns, and between treatment providers and agency/political officials/operatives; and (3) possibly, undertaking investigation of third party influence.