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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Twisted ethics of an expert witness

Seattle Times staff reporters

Stuart Greenberg was at the top of his profession: a renowned forensic psychologist who in court could determine which parent got custody of a child, or whether a jury believed a claim of sexual assault. Trouble is, he built his career on hypocrisy and lies, and as a result, he destroyed lives, including his own.

To uncover the secrets Stuart Greenberg had buried, The Seattle Times got court files unsealed in the superior courts of King and Thurston counties. Through a motion filed by the state Attorney General's Office, the newspaper also got an order lifted that barred public inspection of Greenberg's disciplinary history. Reporters obtained other documents — for example, Greenberg's emails at the University of Washington — through public-records requests, and interviewed colleagues of Greenberg, as well as parents he had evaluated.

Earlier this year, a four-page document with a bland title, "Stipulation for Dismissal with Prejudice," was filed in a civil matter percolating on the King County Courthouse's ninth floor. Hardly anyone took notice. Most everyone had moved on.
But that document — filed by lawyers tangled up in the estate of Stuart Greenberg, a nationally renowned psychologist whose life ended in scandal — signaled the end of a tortuous undertaking.
Greenberg had proved such a toxic force — a poison coursing through the state's court system — that it took more than three years for lawyers and judges to sift through his victims and account for the damage done.
For a quarter century Greenberg testified as an expert in forensic psychology, an inscrutable field with immense power. Purporting to offer insight into the human condition, he evaluated more than 2,000 children, teenagers and adults. His word could determine which parent received custody of a child, or whether a jury believed a claim of sexual assault, or what damages might be awarded for emotional distress.
At conferences and in classrooms, in Washington and beyond, he taught others to do what he did. He became his profession's gatekeeper, quizzing aspirants, judging others' work, writing the national-certification exam. His peers elected him their national president.
But his formidable career was built upon a foundation of hypocrisy and lies. In the years since Greenberg's death, while court officials wrestled over his estate, The Seattle Times worked to unearth Greenberg's secrets, getting court records unsealed and disciplinary records opened.
Those records are a testament to Greenberg's cunning. They show how he played the courts for a fool. He played state regulators for a fool. He played his fellow psychologists for a fool. And were it not for a hidden camera, he might have gotten away with it.
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The entire story can be found here.
Special thanks to Ken Pope for this story.


John Gavazzi said...

The end of a tragic story....

Suspended psychologist commits suicide
By Jennifer Sullivan
Seattle Times staff reporter
Originally published July 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM

A prominent Seattle psychologist under investigation by the state Board of Psychology for secretly videotaping a woman in his office bathroom committed suicide in a Renton hotel on Wednesday.

Stuart Greenberg, who had been licensed in Washington for more than 25 years, was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of voyeurism.

The King County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed that an autopsy was done on Greenberg today. But the cause of death won't be released until toxicology tests are completed.

Greenberg's wife said he left a note that read: "I wish I could offer you some adequate explanation ... [but] I just don't know. I deeply and profoundly apologize."

Employees of the Clarion Hotel, 3700 E. Valley Road, dialed 911 around 2:15 p.m. when they found what they believed to be a suicide note, said Renton police spokeswoman Penny Bartley.

Police found Greenberg dead in a bathroom at the hotel. Bartley wouldn't say what was written in the note.

Greenberg checked into the hotel Monday evening, Bartley said.

The King County Prosecutor's Office had been reviewing whether to charge Greenberg, said spokesman Dan Donohoe.

Meanwhile, the Psychology Board had suspended Greenberg's license, which means he couldn't practice pending further action by the board.

According to the board, Greenberg hid a camera in his office bathroom that was used by co-workers and patients at his practice.

Washington courts frequently appointed him as an evaluator in child-custody cases, and he was a consultant for the Archdiocese of Seattle when it was defending itself in sexual-abuse cases involving priests.

Greenberg's wife, Marcia Greenberg, issued the following statement this afternoon:

"We are overwhelmed by loss and with grief that we could not convince Stu life was worth living. Stu had great gifts and flaws, but to us he was a much loved husband, father, brother, and son. We miss him terribly."

Gary Schoener said...

I agree. A reminder about gurus -- for many Stu was a guru -- that we all need to play by the same rules. Also a reminder that misconduct with collegues or staff may be the tip of the iceberg and should not be avoided. Also a reminder of the power we have as experts and that one can rise to prominence through shoddy work which those outside the field have no way of spotting. There are other such cases worthy of study -- one is in the book BLIND EYE which is about a physician who was able to kill people and escape responsibility for years.