A University at Buffalo Law School Professor's First-Person Tour of America's High-Profile World of Forensic Psychology

Release Date: October 13, 2008 This content is archived.


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Charles Patrick Ewing's latest book takes readers into the inner workings of the criminal courtroom and forensic psychology.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Think of University at Buffalo Law School Professor Charles Patrick Ewing's newest book this way: Imagine a front-row seat to some of the country's most intriguing court cases, courtesy of Ewing, one of the country's leading experts on the criminal mind, who draws on up-close-and-personal details from his 30 years of experience.

Fans of everything from "CSI" to "The Verdict" take note. Ewing's newest book satisfies America's passion for courtroom drama, whether its audience is in the classroom or on the beach.

"Trials of a Forensic Psychologist," Ewing's latest book released this fall by John Wiley and Sons, is the UB Law School professor's latest journey into the intriguing world of the 21st-century courtroom. Well-known for his in-depth knowledge of some of the nation's most celebrated murder trials, Ewing has again produced a work of scholarship that is as informative as it is – at times darkly – entertaining.

"Many people, myself included, have written books examining high-profile controversial cases whose verdicts hinged on the testimony of forensic experts," says Ewing.

"My goal in this book was to take that genre one step further. After sorting through the many trials in which I have testified throughout the United States, I selected 10 high-profile cases that were not only fascinating, but allowed me to give readers an intimate and detailed look at my work as a forensic psychologist.

"The book has some autobiographical qualities, but it was intended not as memoir but rather a means for students, colleagues and interested lay readers to learn about these cases from the unique perspective of one of the experts who actually testified in their trials."

Ewing says he has always tried to bring legal and psychological concepts alive by calling on his experiences as an expert witness.

"I have always viewed my work in court as an adjunct to my research and teaching at the law school, as well as a chance to serve the justice system by teaching judges and juries to understand difficult and complex psychological issues," says Ewing.

Ewing's "Trials of a Forensic Psychologist" brings to life the psychological and legal details of 10 cases in which forensic psychologists, psychologists applying their knowledge in a legal setting, played a crucial role.

Among the cases Ewing chronicles through personal encounters, transcripts, court records and other public documents are those of Waneta Hoyt, Richard Knupp, Judith Neelley, Jimmy Lee Rouse and Shirley Kinge. Under intense and calculated police interrogation, Hoyt confessed to killing five of her children, whose deaths 20 years earlier had been attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Knupp, who was charged with over 1,400 counts of sexually abusing his own children, was first convicted and then fully exonerated in a second trial.

Neelley, a battered woman and the youngest American female ever to serve time on death row, was convicted of committing the heinous murders of two women at the behest of her abusive husband. Rouse, who was charged with murder and tried to fake insanity, fooled at least one expert, but was ultimately convicted.

Shirley Kinge's son brutally murdered an entire family during a robbery and was later shot and killed by the police. She was convicted as an accomplice to her son's crimes but exonerated when it was proven that a forensic expert who testified for the prosecution had falsified evidence against her and many other criminal defendants.

Ewing's proven literary form of matching complicated courtroom procedure with personal stories of the cases' major players makes these cases come alive.

"In all likelihood the story of Waneta Hoyt and her five dead babies would have remained nothing more than a personal calamity had it not been for the curiosity of a young physician who treated Molly and Noah, the fourth- and fifth-born Hoyt children, prior to their deaths," Ewing writes.

"One of Waneta's sisters was dying from a brain tumor, while her other sister battled cancer. Both were partially paralyzed and confined to wheelchairs. Five years earlier, her mother had been killed in a car accident. In 1973, Waneta had been raped by a neighbor. That same year the Hoyts' mobile home burned and they lost everything but the clothes on their backs. And in 1964, the year she and Tim married, her father-in-law hanged himself.

"But those traumas paled by comparison to the ones that ultimately led Waneta to my office (for 21 hours of face-to-face forensic psychological evaluation and testing)."

Ewing's book combines the captivating approach of a novelist with the uncompromising eye for detail of a seasoned researcher. "Trials of a Forensic Psychologist" covers such issues of courtroom drama including a defendant's ability to waive Miranda rights, coerced confessions, the insanity defense, malingering (the faking of mental illness in order to gain a legal advantage), battered woman syndrome, evaluating allegations of child sexual abuse, and the implications of extreme emotional disturbance, all explained in specific human terms and often based on face-to-face encounters with the main characters.

"In each of these cases, the law looked to forensic mental-health experts, including me, to guide the legal system to a fair judgment," Ewing says. "Each case ultimately came down to a 'battle of the experts.' I testified to my opinion, and the other side's expert gave a contradictory opinion. I have tried to paint a detailed and compelling portrait of the evidence and the testimony, and leave it to readers to decide who was right and whether justice was done."

Ewing has a successful track record of capturing the world of courtroom drama in books that are both scholarly and captivating. His "Insanity, Murder, Madness and the Law" took readers inside the minds of some of the most notorious murderers, including David Berkowitz, John Wayne Gacy and Andrea Yates.

Ewing is a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor who has taught UB students for more than 25 years. He now teaches criminal law, evidence and torts.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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