A recent article brings the severely distorted ethical and psychological life of the late Stuart Greenberg, renowned psychologist, back into the spotlight. Although it has been nearly four years since the suicide of the expert witness, many of those whose lives he affected remember the actions he took as if it were yesterday. For decades Greenberg held the futures of children in his hands as he testified to the psychological state of the parents who fought for their custody. He was directly responsible for information juries would use to determine guilt or innocence in sexual assault cases and gave specific details that would impact monetary rewards. Greenberg had a professional and social stronghold in the courts and knew that his testimony was never challenged and was deemed credible, in part due to his impeccable presence as a consummate performer. That was, until one determined mother, Cathy Graden, fought back. She sued after revealing that Greenberg had distorted reports and created misleading allegations, deeming her unfit to raise her four year old son and costing her custody. After years of litigation, the state Examining Board of Psychology eventually levied disciplinary charges against the psychologist, and prohibited him from conducting parenting evaluations for three years.
But even though Greenberg was eventually found guilty of gross ethical violations and professional misconduct, he still managed to amass a fortune of nearly $2 million and hold a teaching position at the University of Washington, all while charging thousands to testify in court and give peer lectures. Because the records of his violations weren’t sealed, his testimony was challenged in one case involving the Air Force, and he took action to have the courts seal his record in order to protect his reputation. Incredibly, due to a simple oversight in the document preparation, the Examining Board of Psychology, along with the state Attorney General’s Office, agreed to go against the public records requirements, and denied public access to his records. Before the year was out, Greenberg was again getting paid handsomely to tout the ethics of parenting evaluations to other psychologists. The hypocrisy even pervaded the American Psychological Association when they asked him to lecture on “The Liability and Immunity of the Expert Witness,” after Greenberg had successfully evaded civil action by Cathy Graden, the mother whose son had been removed after false allegations.
Greenberg’s downfall came by his own hand. Even among his own employees, there were rumors of sexual misconduct and generally bizarre behavior. It wasn’t until the secret video camera he had placed in the employee bathroom was discovered that the full extent of his problems was revealed. Stories began to surface about sexual impropriety and professional shortcomings. Abuse victims accused him of dismissing their claims and employees filed civil suits for the illegal videotaping in the restroom. Greenberg admitted to it all. Three weeks after he was arrested, he committed suicide in a hotel room. The same man who had been elected president of the American Board of Forensic Psychology and lectured at a conference entitled the Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychology, left a simple note that read: “I am inadequate. I just don’t know. I am sorry.” Greenberg had been in therapy for four years.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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