Psychological Testimony

Dr. Westendorf’s Testimony

Introduction

Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier were two girls indicted for the stabbing of their schoolmate (Payton Leutner) nineteen times, for the imaginary figure Slender Man in June 2014 (Robinson, n.p.). The lawyer for the wrongdoers had filed an appeal against a ruling by a previous judge who had ruled that they should be indicted as grown-ups instead of juveniles. If found guilty, Weier and Geyser could be jailed for up to 65 years. Geyser was determined to be suffering from early schizophrenia. The accused were both 12 years old schoolmates at the time they committed the crime. This paper will critically review Dr. Westendorf’s testimony in the Anissa Weier Slender Man trial.                      

Peck states that they claimed they committed the “murder” to protect their families from Slender Man, who wanted to kill their families (14). Morgan told Weier that they should become proxies. Morgan also told Weier that they had to kill to become proxies. At times, Weier felt like withdrawing but followed Morgan since Morgan was doing most of the work.     

 Body language

Dr. Westendorf changed her sitting position, making her appear big and in control.  She did not look stressed. She kept casually gesturing with her hands, showing her confidence and expertise. Her head came up, shoulders up and back. Dr. Westendorf’s sitting position and body movements directed her energy upwards.

Content

Dr. Westendorf is a top psychologist in her state. She is also a Doctorate Degree holder. All her answers to the prosecution’s questions are relevant to the questions and full of content. She is knowledgeable and explains complex issues to the jury using very simple language. Her experience in law contributes to the depth of the content she gives the court.

Responses to questioning

Dr. Melissa Westendorf is asked by the prosecution, detective Michael Carpenter from the Waukesha Police Department Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:14:17-00:15:00) after taking the plea. Exhibit W is her curriculum vitae, which she confirms that she wrote. Throughout the two-hour video, Dr. Westendorf pays careful attention to the prosecutor’s questions. She waits until the prosecutor finishes talking so that she can begin answering the questions. This helps her to understand the questions asked. She understood every question and answered correctly. Despite being asked confusing questions, Dr. Westendorf thought ahead and was not confused by the prosecutor.

Language

Dr. Westendorf used simple language that the jury was able to follow easily. She simplified sophisticated theories to educate the court in mental health knowledge. When the opposing attorney asked lengthy questions with a slightly altered meaning of what she had said, she was careful enough not to acknowledge such misinformation.  She listened very carefully and corrected what was wrong.

Expert in Mental Health Testimony

Qualifications and Ethics

Detective Carpenter asks the expert witness if she is the one who prepared her resume’ Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:13:28-00:14:58) and the expert witness responds in the affirmative. The detective wanted to find out if the resume is accurate and updated regarding, the training and experience of the expert witness.

Detective Carpenter asked the expert witness to describe her academic qualifications. Dr. Westendorf says she attained her B.A. Psychology from the University of Iowa. Joint degree program Law Degree attained in 1999, and Ph. D Clinical psychology from Ajman University in 2002. Did a one-year internship at the Milwaukee campus, a juvenile unit at a hospital doing forensics for patients admitted due to psychological behavior and outreach and therapy with juveniles and adults. She was a forensic evaluator. During her practicum in graduate school, she worked at a juvenile child center therapy with children and families Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (0:15:30-0:17:05).

Hypothetical & Difficult Questions

Dr. Westendorf was asked by detective Carpenter to define the meaning of forensic evaluation to the court so that the jury could understand. She elaborated that the difference between a clinical psychologist and a forensic psychologist is that a clinical psychologist does therapy with the individual, meets with them, either during the course of brief therapy longer therapy or and works with their mental health issues Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:18:00-00:19:30). On the other hand, a forensic psychologist comes in and typically asks legal questions that help the court to answer issues that answer questions like “how does the psychological fit into this”.

Forensic psychologists analyze all the evidence that is part of the case they look at all of this information objectively. They meet with the once or twice depending on the information that is involved Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:18:25-00:18:35). The detective then asked her if the purpose of her law degree was to help her in doing her forensics evaluation Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:18:40-00:18:50). She replied in the affirmative, adding that she liked the intersection of law and psychology, mental health law, family law, and criminal law. It helps her forensic work because it helps to understand the legal process and what is asked of her when she does a forensic evaluation Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:18:55-00:19:13).

Dr. Westendorf has two licenses: a psychology license from the state of Wisconsin and a law license Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:19:17-00:19:33). The detective asked her whether she sits on any type of board. She replies that she used to sit on the Wisconsin Licensing Board for four years, and was a part of the American Psychological Association (they had a committee on legal issues) where they would meet and work on its policies. She also has been a member of the American Psychological Law Society, Lucie county bar association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, among others Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:19:34-00:20:29).

Currently, Dr. Westendorf maintains a part-time position with the State of Wisconsin during forensic evaluations, and also maintains an independent private practice, as well as a forensic psychologist Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:20:36-00:20:45). On her part-time position, she has held it since 2011 Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:20:47-00:20:56). She began her private forensic practice in 2003 when she became licensed Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:20:59-00:21:09). The detective asked her whether she has previously testified in court before as an expert regarding the issue of “not guilty because of mental reason” and she responded in the affirmative Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:23:40-00:24:58).  She had never been determined not qualified to testify in such an issue.

She was called by the court to perform an evaluation on Weier Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:23:15-00:24:44). There times she did not support the position of the party that hired her, other times she has reached conclusions different from what the person that hired her was expecting Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:25:25-00:25:50). She examines police reports, witness accounts, whether he accused has any mental issues, parent, spouses, teacher’s information, their education level, to help her understand the case. She received copies of the reports of the interviews with the accused.  She looks at the information to determine whether the accused has mental issues or their behavior in an objective way. She finds out how the evidence fits in together. She notes her opinions and conclusions when submitting her reports to the court.

Expert Witness as Teachers

Relevant Experience

Dr. Westendorf is a licensed psychologist and lawyer and has previously testified in court. Her testimony has never been discredited by the court. She has done forensics and testified in cases involving the abuse or overuse of the internet since she is also an ICT expert Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:23:00). She has testified as an expert and has never been determined unqualified not to testify in such issues.

Ability to Use A Recognizable Methodology

Dr. Westendorf uses NGI (Next Generation Identification). The Federal Bureau of Investigations states that NGI helps the judicial community in solving crimes (n.p.). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) was reorganized a couple of years ago, changing some of the names of some disorders. “Other specified schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorder, delusional symptoms in partner of individual with delusional disorder” used to be known as shared psychotic disorder Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:33:02-00:34:09).  Parker gives an update on the criteria for diagnosis of shared psychotic disorder (183).  

Dr. Westendorf defines the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as a listing of mental health disorders that people have Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:34:19-00:35:00). They organized it with symptoms for each disorder. It is used by therapists, counselors or forensic psychologists as part of therapy or evaluations. It is the treatment used by most psychologists when they are making a diagnosis. All mental health professionals (psychologists, psychiatrists among others) use DSM to form conclusions about a diagnosis.

Ability to Teach That Methodology & Communicate the Resulting Conclusions

The prosecutor asked Dr. Westendorf to explain to the jury how she reaches her conclusions. She explains the process using very simple words. She says that as a forensic psychologist she first tries to obtain as much information as possible that’s part of the evidence of the case such as the age of the accused, education level, witness accounts, interview their parents or spouses, criminal complaints, mental health services involved, teachers, therapists, etc. to understand the individual at the time the offense occurred. She also watched recorded videos of the two accused Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:26:00-00:27:00). Dr. Westendorf opted to use the three words shared psychotic disorder, so that the jury could understand the disorder that she diagnosed Weier with. This shows her ability to teach and easily communicate with the jury Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:34:00: – 00:34:09). 

Good Witnesses Don’t Smile Much

When Dr. Westendorf was answering the professional bodies she has worked for, she smiled as she named some of the associations and memberships, she has been a part of Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:20:15-00:20:20). The few other times she smiled, she just did it occasionally to show sincerity and credibility.

Goud Book Excerpt Testimony

 Testimonial Experience

Dr. Westendorf has testified before in court in similar cases since she is an ICT expert, a licensed lawyer, and a psychologist. Additionally, her work is to make a comprehensive analysis of the mental health of child suspects before they are brought to trial. Sometimes, her opinions or conclusions have differed from those of the one who hired her. She is not nervous and even gives examples so that the jury can understand her more easily. 

 Preparing for Examination About the Purpose of Custody Evaluations

In preparing for the examination, Dr. Westendorf said that she interviewed the accused parents, school mates, and teachers. She researched on how Weier was raised by her parents. This helped her to come up with an accurate analysis of Weier’s mental health.               

Controlling for Personal & Society Biases

Although she interviewed most parties in the case, Dr. Westendorf talks little about Weier’s parents. She only mentions them when saying that she interviewed them when collecting information about the case, to find out Weier’s mental health at the time she committed the crime.

Informed Consent & Confidentiality

Dr. Westendorf was asked by the prosecutor whether she met with any of the other doctors and psychologists or if she read any of the reports made by them before she submitted her report to the court, and she denied. This shows she is professional and treats client information as confidential Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:30:20-00:32:40).

Multiple Methods of Data Gathering                                  

Dr. Westendorf said that she first tries to obtain as much information as possible that’s part of the evidence of the case such as police reports (documents and records) the age of the accused, education level, witness accounts (interviews), interview their parents or spouses, criminal complaints, mental health services involved, teachers, therapists, etc. to understand the individual at the time the offense occurred. She also watched recorded videos of the two accused Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:26:00-00:27:00). All these involve interviews, documents and records, observation, and oral histories.

Turning an Expert Witness into A Great Witness

Clothing

Dr. Westendorf wore a decent skirt suit. The skirt was long enough to cover her knees. She did not wear any jewelry. As a licensed lawyer, she was dressed for the occasion and looked the part. Her hair was professionally done. It was a simple hairstyle suited for a courtroom. She looked very professional.

How Much to Say

Dr. Westendorf answered all the questions responsively. She gave enough information in response to each question she was asked.

Opinion Testimony

Dr. Westendorf diagnosed Weier with a disorder known as “Other specified schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorder, delusional symptoms in partner of individual with delusional disorder” Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:33:00-00:33:19). This disorder used to be known as a shared psychotic disorder. This type of disorder is shared between two people or more (CBC News, n.p.). One of them may have more significant or more observable psychotic disorders. They may have delusions, hallucinations, mood problems. The second person in this instance then shares at least one of these psychotic symptoms, mostly delusions Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:35:25-00:37:59). There is a special relationship between these two individuals. This type of disorder is not common. It is common in special relationships for example between parent and child, spouses, or siblings. In this case, it is unusual because it involves children. Dr. Westendorf defines a delusion as a false or very persistent false belief that doesn’t change much despite contradictory information.

Despite giving them contradictory information, they keep that delusion intact. For example, such a person may believe that someone operated on them, took out their organs and replaced their organs with those from another person. Despite your assurances that they do not have any scars on them, it won’t alter their delusion. People with bizarre delusions often say things that cannot happen in normal life.  Another example is that such a person may feel pain in their toes. They may believe that an alien has inserted tracking devices in their toes. The pain is real, but the alien is delusional Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:38:00-00:40:00).

These people behave normally as long as you don’t tap their delusion. They will talk normally about their family, education, or work history. You wouldn’t know they have this disorder. But the moment you ask about it, then you start getting all these beliefs about whatever their delusion makes them to believe. They behave normally and you may not detect it Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:41:33-00:43:37). They may sound very believable, but their words do not have any basis if you compare them with reality.

Dr. Westendorf concludes that Morgan was the primary after analyzing all the evidence from the police reports and notes from other professionals. She had multiple symptoms of the disorder. She discovered this half an hour after she began interrogating her. Weir was a secondary, submissive or the recipient person. What they had in common was the delusion about sander man and what they needed to do to go to sander mansion and all his other killers, characters or proxies. Their relationship made it easy for the transfer of this delusion Anissa Weier Slender Man Trial Day 2 Part 2 Dr. Melissa Westendorf Testifies 09/13/17 scene (00:44:00-00:46:00). 

Critique

It is unusual for kids who are not related and are as young as 12 years to share a common delusion, yet they have barely known each other for four months. Morgan and Anisa met in October 2013 and by January 2014, they were already planning the murder. All this occurred within seven months. That is an unusually short period of time for a shared delusion to develop.  From Dr. Westendorf’s report, the accused were spending 40 to 80 minutes together every day. It is unusual but not impossible for a delusion to transfer from one person to another, yet they have known each other for a very short time. The expert witness (Dr. Westendorf) presented by the court directed their opinions formed based on incorrect information. Dr. Westendorf founded her opinions on the premise that Weier wanted to protect her family. According to another report, Weier did not know about Slander Man until the crime was over (Morgan told her after the crime). The opinions of Dr. Westendorf have no validity.

Conclusion

This paper critically analyzed Dr. Westendorf’s testimony in Anissa Weier Slender Man trial. It is rare to find two children sharing this level of delusion. Morgan’s thinking took on a delusional angle much earlier than Weier. Both of the perpetrators incorporated themselves into this “magical” genre of Sander Man. It is more common to find this delusion shared between a parent and child, or siblings than between two children. They believed they were in some danger and had to kill someone so that they become Slander Mans’ proxies and protect their families from Slander Man.  

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