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Top Pathologist, Criminologist, Neuroradiologists Join The Forensic Panel's Growth Spurt on the Cutting Edge

07.03.2020

On the Cutting Edge of Police Shooting & Death in Custody Litigation, Investor Competency, Mass Shooting, Criminal Maturity Resentencing Controversies

New York – Responding to experiences in several specific types of cases in which The Forensic Panel is encountering nuanced justice issues, the practice has announced wide-ranging moves to best apply its state-of-the-art analysis and forensic investigation in multidisciplinary casework.

 

Death in police custody cases place demonstrably volatile pressures on forensic assessment. The George Floyd case, for example, only became further ambiguous with divergent opinions from the local medical examiner and a private pathologist hired by the family, in a very exposed case that has nonetheless not yet witnessed release of police bodycam videos.

 

The Forensic Panel has responded to the delicateness of such situations through its application of multispecialty peer review and the involvement of diverse oversight to the review of evidence. In a current case of a death in police custody, The Panel incorporated critical care medicine into the pathology oversight of an unanticipated death of a suspect with a complex medical history. That case introduced yet another renowned talent to join The Forensic Panel’s roster of pathologist examiners, William Anderson, M.D. of Orlando, FL. The resultant opinion was an efficient and critical assessment by six medical professionals cross-checking different potential interpretations and explanations. The report of the team led by Marcella Fierro, M.D., the widely-respected former Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia, is precise and definitive, as the process would cultivate it to be.

 

Drawing from other custodial death experience, The Forensic Panel has recruited Dep. Chief Tim Scanlan, Ph.D., an eminent crime scene analyst and ballistic expert from Louisiana, to join its ranks. Dr. Scanlan is now tasked with The Forensic Panel’s outstanding team of forensic pathologists who are exploring a police shooting in an eastern state. Led by David Fowler, M.D., the nationally renowned ex-Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland, The Forensic Panel’s peer review will allow for an efficient and effective integration of pathology with police science.

 

“There are some death in police custody cases in which we believe it is critical for the input of seasoned officers to inform the reconstructive efforts of pathologists interpreting autopsy and microscopic post-mortem evidence,” commented Michael Welner, M.D., Chairman of The Panel. “We’ve witnessed Dep. Chief Scanlan’s work in other cases over the years and have respected how he embodies the intensity and intellectual rigor that we bring to our cases. We always season the sophistication of our death investigations with other really sharp new additions like Dr. Anderson, and I expect Dep. Chief Scanlan will also meaningfully impact the examinations of cases. The best people guide the evaluation on what to look for, and where the evidence will be found, and bring not just the brainpower to evaluate the data, but the complementary horsepower of experience to yield a last word analysis.”

 

Accounting for the range of cases and tasks of each, The Forensic Panel also announced that it has added three new case managers to its team, joining case managers Emily Davey and Theresa Janusewski.

 

  • Enzo Yaksic (Massachusetts), known to many in the criminal justice and forensic mental health community for his research on serial murder and academic advancement of atypical homicide study. “Enzo Yaksic has an encyclopedic knowledge of homicide offenders and typologies, and his leadership in its study will be invaluable to The Forensic Panel,” comments Matt DeLisi, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Criminal Justice and Distinguished Professor at Iowa State University.
  • Morgan Popolizio (Texas), whose experience derives from investigation in both the public and executive sectors, and a former outstanding research intern at The Forensic Panel.
  • Heather Knous-Westfall (Washington), a systems management specialist with years of mental health experience, has extensive publishing experience, particularly in juvenile mental health. Ms. Knous-Westfall is spearheading important publication initiatives in The Panel.

 

With the release of a report of its independent to the Maricopa County (Arizona) State Attorney’s Office in May 2019 (see below), The Panel exposed numerous shortcomings in the entire science-law approach to whether a given crime is the product of an immature brain of a yet developing young offender. The Panel brought together eight nationally respected specialists in diverse specialties to scrutinize the science underlying Supreme Court rulings in Miller v. Alabama (2012), Graham v. Florida (2010), and Roper v. Simmons (2005).

 

The resulting landmark 142 page report (see below) examined the domain of scientific issues fundamental to age, crime, what is known about how people change as they advance through teenage years and into adulthood, why these changes take place, the role of neurobiology and other factors on one’s development and criminality, and an offender’s prognosis and future risk. The independent blueprint for how to evaluate what signifies maturity as it relates to violent crime and in particular, murder, has proven informative to case evaluation and the trial preparation of matters involving late adolescence offenders.

 

Ambiguities of criminal maturity continue to challenge courts at the highest levels. The Forensic Panel continues to educate courts and practitioners about the updated science, deriving from the multiple specialties with which we have explored such cases in response to the requests of both prosecutors and defense attorneys.

 

Consistent with this, The Forensic Panel has expanded its recruitment of psychiatrists and psychologists with outstanding reputations for their evaluation and treatment of young people. In addition, The Forensic Panel has recruited two of America’s most respected neuroradiologists, Carolyn Meltzer, M.D, and Christopher Whitlow, M.D., Ph.D., to contribute to cases that include the assessment of brain development that includes neuroimaging questions as well. Among these is a current mass homicide case, one of over a dozen mass homicide cases in which The Forensic Panel has consulted to date. Dr. Meltzer is Chairman of the Department of Radiology at Emory University School of Medicine, and a past President of the American Society of Neuroradiology. Dr. Whitlow, of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering and of Biostatistics, in addition to Radiology.

 

Ms. Knous-Westfall’s role also includes working with specialists in The Forensic Panel on publications that promote the responsible use of science in criminal court reviews of violent crimes committed by young people. She is also a part of an effort within The Forensic Panel to operationalize an approach to evaluating investment competency.

 

“We’ve learned important lessons on the study of vulnerability that we’ve found apply to cases of disputed wills and trusts and questions of one’s competency to invest,” explains Dr. Welner, a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai. “The Forensic Panel’s experience on the cutting edge of assessing undue influence has led to protocols for best practices in assessment that we hope to publish and share with the litigation community.”

 

Noted Knous-Westfall, “I have followed The Forensic Panel for over ten years. It is the practice where the gold standard for forensic peer review and multidisciplinary peer review developed, a standard for defining criminal depravity (Depravity Standard) developed, and more recently, the template for assessing criminal maturity. It’s an honor to be part of the effort to guide the investor and legal community on relevant, reliable and valid ways of evaluating the mysterious relationships and questions of competency to invest and to make estate decisions.”

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To read the release of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, click here. To read The Forensic Panel’s report on murder and criminal maturity, click here.

To read published work about The Forensic Panel’s prospective peer-review protocols, click here.

To read published work about The Forensic Panel’s multi-disciplinary peer-review, click here.

To read published work about the Depravity Standard pioneering efforts to distinguish the worst of crimes, click here, here, and here.