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"Spotlight on the Work of a Forensic Social Scientist," pp. 3-4, in FSSA: The Forensic Social Scientist: The Official Newsletter of the Forensic Social Sciences Association.



In this corner, we spotlight forensic social scientists such as J. Barry Gurdin, Ph.D.: J. (Joseph) Barry Gurdin, Ph.D., is the founder and director of To Love and to Work: An Agency for Change. Besides having taught sociology, anthropology, psychology, and political science on the college and university levels in Canada, Sweden, and the USA, Dr. Gurdin has been a visiting scholar/ research associate in the Department of Sociology and the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Much of his work has dealt with practical interventions with poly-drug substance users and/or abusers who suffer from co-occurring disorders, and who not infrequently are HIV+ or have AIDS and/or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The Forensic Social Scientist
The Official Newsletter of the Forensic Social Sciences Association
Vol. 1, No. 2 Spring/Summer 2015
The Forensic Social Scienst is published four mes annually (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall) by the Forensic Social
Sciences Associaon. Editor: Stephen J. Morewitz, Ph.D.; Managing Editor: *Dennis M. Savard, Ph.D. Candidate
Editors Note:
I am very pleased to introduce Vol. 1, No. 2 of The Forensic Social Scientist, the Official
Newsletter of the Forensic Social Sciences Association (FSSA). As an international and
interdisciplinary organization, the FSSA is dedicated to advancing training at the undergraduate,
graduate, and postdoctoral levels, practice issues such as the development of certification in
forensic social sciences, policy initiatives, and research in the forensic social sciences. The FSSA
is currently planning to launch new undergraduate and graduate courses, certification programs in
the forensic social sciences, and the first ever Journal of the Forensic Social Sciences and other
Stephen J. Morewitz, Ph.D.
Forensic social scientists can assist in a variety of forensic fields. Below is a discussion of a few of
these areas:
Specialists recognize that the use of computer passwords play a major role in security breaches.
Forensic social scientists can use their research to assist individuals and organizations (A Threat
Intelligence Script for Qualitative Analysis of Passwords Artifacts, Forensic Magazine, July 31,
2015 12:57 pm | by John Franolich | Blogs | Retrieved from
What is Hot in the Forensic Social Sciences?
Page 2 Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring/Summer 2015
Missing Persons
One of the most famous leaders in the history of U.S. labor, James R. Hoffa, has been missing for
40 years, and some experts believe that his disappearance may be unsolvable. Forensic social
scientists can assist in solving this difficult case. (Sean Allocca, Editor, New Clues, Few Leads: Is
Jimmy Hoffa's Disappearance Unsolvable? Fri, 07/31/2015 - 1:44 pm; Retrieved from http://
Drug Crimes and K-9 Partners
How reliable are drug-sniffing police dogs? Police drug-sniffing dogs may fail to detect drugs, and
forensic social scientists may be helpful in working with police and their K-9 partners in
improving the reliability of using police drug-sniffing dogs. US Court Says Drug-Sniffing Dog
Fails the Smell Test July 30, 2015 11:05 am | by Michael Tarm, Associated Press | News |
Retrieved from
Congratulations to FSSA member, Professor Martine EVANS (aka Herzog-Evans), PhD, for
publishing her new book : Offender release and supervision: The role of courts and the use of
discretion , Nijmegen, Wolf Legal Publishers, 2015.
Below is a summary of Professor EVANSs Offender release and supervision: The role of courts
and the use of discretion:
In some jurisdictions, early release is automatic at a certain point in time; in others, it is
discretionarily decided by a court or an executive authority; others still have a mixed system and,
increasingly, others opt for mandatory post-release supervision with the hope of better controlling
dangerous offenders. In some cases, due process applies and the independence of decision-makers
is viewed as being paramount; in others such principles are deemed inapplicable. Some legal
systems consider that release , and breach issues – are part of a penal continuum that starts with
arrest; in others, they are perceived as belonging to the executive and as being strictly distinct
from penal issues.
This book endeavours to understand these differences and tries and assess whether one perspective
is superior to another. It wonders which one is fairer and more efficient. It questions what
efficiency means: freeing prison space, reducing reoffending, supporting rehabilitation, and/or
being legitimate and fair? It wonders to what extent the answers to such questions are relative to
culture, to penology choices (punitive, or not), and to the legal history and structure (e.g. written
law or common law; adversarial versus non adversarial). It analyses whether due process should
be taken into consideration. It also asks whether a legal system can afford due process in
overcrowded and penniless times. Thanks to the contribution of renown authors with various
backgrounds, this book tries and answer these contentious issues, by drawing upon comparative
and international law, empirical (outcome) literature, legitimacy of justice theory, therapeutic
jurisprudence legal doctrine, and best practices (e.g. Danish collaborative reentry, drug courts or
French reentry courts).
Forensic Social Sciences in France
The Forensic Social Scientist Page 3
About the editor: Martine Herzog-Evans teaches law and criminology at Reims University,
France. She also teaches at the Universities of Paris II and Bordeaux IV/Pau/National Prison
Academy. Her majors are criminal law, sentences, probation, prisons and reentry. She is a member
of the European Society of Criminology and works with three of its subgroups: Community
Sentences and Measures; Sentencing; and Prisons. She is also a member of the Decision-Making
group of the EU COST action Offender Supervision in Europe”. She has consulted with the
French National Assembly, the Senate, these assemblies law commissions, the French National
Human Rights Commission, and the prison services, and worked as an expert for the Council of
Professor Martine EVANS (aka Herzog-Evans), PhD, Université de Reims, faculté de droit/
University of Rheims, Law faculty, France Tel : 33-6 60 12 15 75 (France) : 44-758 328 5600
(UK)website:; Twitter account: @ProfMEvans
Président of the French Confédération Française de la Probation
In this corner, we spotlight forensic social scientists such as J. Barry Gurdin, Ph.D.: J. (Joseph)
Barry Gurdin, Ph.D., is the founder and director of To Love and to Work: An Agency for Change.
Besides having taught sociology, anthropology, psychology, and political science on the college
and university levels in Canada, Sweden, and the USA, Dr. Gurdin has been a visiting scholar/
research associate in the Department of Sociology and the Department of Anthropology at the
University of California, Berkeley. Much of his work has dealt with practical interventions with
poly-drug substance users and/or abusers who suffer from co-occurring disorders, and who not
infrequently are HIV+ or have AIDS and/or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
As an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at St. Xavier College (now University)
in Chicago, Dr. Gurdin audited the lectures and consultations of the late Professor Louis Guttman
who underscored for him that social phenomena are multivariate during Professor Guttmans
consultations at The University of Chicagos Department of Psychiatrys Parent Health and Infant
Development Project, whose Principal Investigator, was the late Joseph Marcus, M.D.
Dr. Gurdin identifies a strong forensic aspect to his work in clinical and applied sociology and
anthropology. For example, in his new book manuscript that is being reviewed for publication, he
describes the case of a close family member of one of the living Presidents of the United States of
America whom he counseled for poly-drug substance abuse, major mental illness, and AIDS. Part
of this work involved writing letters to a parole officer, a lawyer, and prison authorities regarding
various aspects of this case. In another chapter he compares the death of a sex worker in Montreal,
Quebec, Canada—the daughter of a major Quebecoise feminist filmmaker—with one of his
clients, whose case as a poly-drug abusing sex worker in San Francisco who acquired AIDS was
featured on national television. In the American case, a rigid behaviorist model required by a large
clinical system and the systems exclusion of consideration of important cultural concepts
underlying this womans pattern of addiction in her treatment augmented health risks for this
client and the larger society, while a lack of institutional support, such as a drug court combined
with contemporary opioid-substitution therapy, were important contributors lying behind the
context of the murder of the Quebec woman.
Spotlight on the Work of a Forensic Social Scientist
Page 4 Vol. 1., No. 2, Spring/Summer 2015
Another chapter in his new book manuscript empirically documents how a psychological
evaluation of drug treatment constructed adolescents who were using and/or abusing drugs as
suffering from mental illness, even though the study violated rules of the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and had quantitative errors in a national formula. In
other cases, Dr. Gurdin has had to file a sexual abuse case against the partner of a clients mother
in another state and testify to a governmental agent of the law, and to governmental committees
regarding substance abuse treatment and other issues.
As the first author of eight chapters in Model Programs for A dolescent Sexual Health: Evidence-
Based HIV, STI, and Pregnancy Prevention Interventions, edited by Josefina J. Card and Tabitha
A. Benner (New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2008), Dr. Gurdin simplified the language
of scientific studies of interventions aimed at reducing harm for high-risk populations, such as
incarcerated male drug users who may be in custody only briefly. A panel of major social
scientists had selected these interventions as being the best in the country, but a much wider
audience needed the implementation and results of this work to be more easily grasped. One of
these interventions demonstrated how to create a comprehensive set of services for a pregnant
teenage mother, including developing a team approach employing an ob-gyn, pediatrician, a social
worker, a health educator on call twenty-four hours a day to provide reproductive health and
family life education for the mother, her partner, and family. This type of intervention aims to
prevent repeat adolescent pregnancies and reduce STIs.
In an earlier case study of a patient with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS from another
country that was presented at the annual conference of Rehabilitation Nurses, ARN/RNI, Dr.
Gurdin described the friendship between a patient and the nursing staff, particularly one nurse,
who furnished the patient with great emotional support along with his closest friend as the spouse
attempted to have the patient take medication delivered by their young offspring that would have
ended this patients life. The patients strong will to live rebuffed such efforts. This case and Dr.
Gurdins further contract doing field interviews with ALS patients in the USA for a French firm
confirmed that some patients with greatly debilitating diseases may be provided with life
sustaining support by professional staff who may bypass strict ethical, legal, and professional
guidelines, particularly in cases in which close family members cannot face the burdens of seeing
a loved ones debilitated condition.
Dr. Gurdins most recent intervention involved a suicide of a close family member that negatively
impacted the behavior and health of several of the closest surviving members. This case required
Dr. Gurdin to draw upon his having taught the sociology of the family, of his having intervened
with families with co-occurring disorders, and of indirectly communicating with remaining close
relatives in three countries, of three ethnic groups, as well as his sharing relevant social science
literature with the family member who contracted with him. Dr. Gurdins sharing of this literature
and legal referrals served a bibliotherapeutic function by explaining overtly deviant behavior
within its larger social and cultural meanings as a product of enormous social change that these
societies and cultures have recently undergone which greatly influenced his clientslives. His
referrals also offered potentially concrete paths for alleviating some of the pain experienced by
members of this family.
The Forensic Social Scientist Page 5
Forensic social scientists offer testimony before governmental bodies and serve as policy
consultants in developing legislative initiatives. Future issues will discuss the ways in which
forensic social scientists have testified about Human Immune Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency
Syndrome, sexually transmitted infections, teen pregnancy, violence, prisons, immigration, wage
issues, and other forensic social sciences-related policy topics.
Immigration attorneys will retain forensic social scientists in a variety of immigration matters. In
this section, Attorney Philip M. Levin, Philip M. Levin Philip Levin & A ssociates, Prof. Corp.,
San Francisco, CA, describes situations in which forensic social scientists can testify as expert
witnesses in immigration cases:
In political asylum cases, where the respondent must prove a well-founded fear of persecution in
the home country as a result of his/her race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion,
social scientist would generally testify as to:
Conditions in home country if known;
How one of the five nexusgrounds would give rise to this applicants persecution;
Types of persecution (jailing, beating, torture, etc.) common to that country;
Inability to live persecution-free anywhere in the country and why; and,
Lack of a safe 3rd country and why.
In cases where the respondent is filing a waiver to prevent removal to his/her home country, where
hardship to a U.S. citizen/lawful permanent resident spouse, child or (sometimes) a parent must be
shown, a social scientist generally would testify as to:
Types of hardship to be expected if relative stayed in U.S. while applicant deported (mental/
emotional, loss of income, loss of co-parent, child, etc.)
Types of hardship to be expected if relative went abroad with deported applicant (can they
speak the language there, are they familiar with the culture, can they be educated there, are
there jobs available, what is healthcare like there, what about effects of loss of U.S. relatives,
friends, support network, what about loss of U.S. job, can they live and work legally there – go
to school there, etc.
Types of hardship to the applicant that would result in hardship to the U.S. relatives.
Philip M. Levin
Philip Levin & Associates, Prof. Corp.930 Montgomery Street, Suite 502
San Francisco, CA 94133
415.233.8340 Fax
Forensic Social Scientists as Expert Witnesses in Immigration Cases
Government Testimony, Consultations, and Policy
Page 6 Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring/Summer 2015
In future issues, The Forensic Social Scientist will present court cases that involve forensic social
sciences issues.
Various colleges and universities have courses and programs in different areas of the forensic
social sciences. These courses cover the application of social sciences to civil, criminal,
government, immigration, and military law cases. They analyze both the uses of the social
sciences in civil, criminal, immigration, and military law and the social sciences of the justice
system. The FSSA assists faculty and administrators in developing additional courses and
programs and enhancing existing ones. Below is an example of a newly-designed FSSA course
outline for a 16-week course on the uses of forensic social sciences in criminal law cases.
Example of a Semester Course Outline: Use of Forensic Social Sciences in
Criminal Law Cases
Week 1: Laws Related to Expert Witnesses and Consultants in Criminal Law Cases
Week 2: Criminal Law Court Procedures
Week 3: Ethical Issues for Expert Witnesses and Consultants
Week 4: Crime Scene Analysis in Criminal Law Cases
Week 5: Social and Psychological Factors in Determining Foul Play in Criminal Law Cases
Week 6: DNA Analysis and Methods in Criminal Law Cases
Week 7: Forensic Archaeological Principles and Methods in Criminal Law Cases
Week 8: Forensic Anthropology Principles and Methods in Criminal Law Cases
Week 9: Use of Forensic Sociology and Psychology in Missing Persons Cases
Week 10: Premises Liability
Week 11: Use of Gang Research and Theory in Criminal Law Cases
Week 12: Role of Recidivism Theory in Criminal Law Cases
Week 13: Domestic Violence Expert Witnesses and Consultants
Week 14: Stalking and Death Threats Expert Witnesses and Consultants
Week 15: Homicide and the Insanity Defense
Week 16: The Role of Mitigation Expert in Death Penalty Cases
Selected Court Cases Related to the Forensic Social Sciences
Curricular Innovations in Forensic Social Sciences
The Forensic Social Scientist Page 7
Students are interested in new career opportunities related to the social sciences and justice
system, and the forensic social sciences offer them an exciting professional opportunity. In future
issues, students will get a chance to present their research in the forensic social sciences and also
ask questions about forensic social sciences training programs and practice issues such as
certification and expert witness preparation.
Congratulations to the following students who, along with Dr. Ronn Johnson, Professor, School of
Leadership and Education Sciences, University of San Diego, presented the following forensic
social sciences research studies at the American Association for the Advancement of Science,
Pacific Division, in San Francisco, CA, June 14-17, 2015:
1. Cindy Kim, M.A., Elizabeth Grace, M.A.* and. Ronn Johnson, Ph.D., ABPP**
*George Fox University **University of San Diego
"Forensic psychology in evaluating domestic lone wolf terrorist: Threat assessment of the New
York City cop killer"
With growing concern for lone wolf terrorism and international security, forensic psychologists,
law enforcement, and citizens are seeking ways to develop an understanding to proactively
respond to violent extremism. With little consistency across geographic and political spectrums
about what acts of violence should be defined as terrorism, lone wolf terrorists can be described as
those who carry out acts of violence individually and independently from established
organizations of terror. These types of terrorists are difficult to identify prior to their attacks;
therefore, pose a major security threat, both domestic and overseas. As a result, clinical mental
health professionals are involved in a key role during prevention, assessment, and intervention
efforts as part of a multidisciplinary team. Evaluations of past lone wolf attacks (e.g., police
officers being attacked in New York City), insight into the backgrounds (e.g., relationships and/or
collaboration with organizations), and ideological underpinnings can aid in understanding the
motivations of these individuals. This presentation explores the forensic psychological patterns
exhibited by lone wolf terrorists, which can potentially aid in the development of the next
terrorism frontier.
2. Eric Jacobs, M.A., Cindy Kim*, Elizabeth Grace**, and Ronn Johnson, Ph.D., ABPP
*University of Iowa **George Fox University & University of San Diego
A forensic psychological analysis of violence against police officers
Police officers are tasked with the job of upholding the laws of society, both protecting and
serving the citizens of their districts. In addition to the challenges they face in their duty, police
officers are also finding themselves victims of violent, and sometimes fatal, attacks. At times these
attacks are situational or a specific officer is targeted. However, often these assaults are random
acts of violence against law enforcement. According to the FBI, over 49,000 law enforcement
officers are victims of line-of-duty assaults each year. This presentation will not only explore the
perpetrators of these attacks, but also discuss the motives and the logic utilized by the offenders.
Cultural, socioeconomic, and other factors will be examined through an empirically based
framework. In addition, this presentation will apply the research to suggestions pertaining to
avenues that could allow us to identify and impede assailants prior to an assault taking place.
The Students Corner
Page 8 Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring/Summer 2015
3. Jessica Mueller, M.A.*,Yasmin Saadatzadeh, M.A. and Ronn Johnson, Ph.D., ABPP
*Alliant International University University of San Diego
"Self-radicalization and the on-line violent extremist's use of the Internet in the recruitment of lone
wolf terrorists"
The increasing advancement in technology has made interactions between terrorist groups and
susceptible individuals much more frequent. Online violent extremists are defined as individuals
who support or commit ideologically motivated violence to further political goals. Often these
online violent extremists create propaganda and motivate vulnerable individuals to engage in lone
wolf terrorism, acting without direction from the group. Lone wolf terrorists have carried out
some of the most prominent political assassinations and mass shootings. Researchers argue that
lone wolf terrorists have more psychopathology than the ordinary terrorist group member. Violent
extremists who utilize the Internet can influence these individuals to commit terrorist act but
ultimately, lone wolves operate by themselves. Guidance and instruction are provided for these
individuals through the Internet, including Facebook pages, chat rooms, and Internet forums.
However, while searching these sites they are likely to be discovered by law enforcement. This
presentation will explore self-radicalization and recruitment of terrorists through online violent
extremistsuse of the Internet.
4. Jessica Mueller, M.A.,* Shacarah Henry, M.A. and Ronn Johnson, Ph.D., ABPP
*Alliant International University University of San Diego
"The public's role in antiterrorism aimed at violent extremism"
There has been an increase in media attention towards terrorists and violent extremists. While
government officials are taking actions necessary for national security, the public is left with little
instruction on what they can do to protect both themselves and others. While the government can
stop some terrorist attacks engaged in by terrorist groups, lone wolf terrorists strike at random and
leave little evidence to foresee such an attack. It is difficult to identify someone about to commit
an attack, especially since no single profile exists for violent extremists or lone wolves. So how
can the public gain a sense of safety? Researchers will evaluate four cases of lone wolf terrorism
to help determine what a citizen can do to prevent future terrorist attacks from occurring.
Researchers will also consider crime prevention strategies as a means of addressing the publics
role in preventing terrorist attacks by violent extremists.
The Forensic Social Scientist Page 9
5. Cindy Kim, M.A.,* Shacarah Henry, M.A., & Ronn Johnson, Ph.D., ABPP
*University of Iowa University of San Diego
"Forensic psychological threat assessments for web violent extremists"
The Internet has been a valuable instrument in strengthening terrorist activities in modern times.
The growing presence of modern terrorism through the Internet during the recent decades has
demonstrated the democratization of communications by user-generated content and the
awareness of terrorists and their potential for the public. Similar to most websites, extremists
disseminate their ideas and promote their causes, search for information, connect, and
communicate with like-minded people across great distances. Terrorists vary from the general
public in their use of the internet by aiming to build support and generate publicity (i.e.,
communicative), and those who facilitate acts of terrorism (i.e., instrumental). In an effort to
understand the strategies and ways to counter the online radicalization, the ideas and practices
utilized for making the emerging and effective approach through the Internet by organizations and
radical groups of extremism are examined. There are values in understanding the strategies
utilized to trigger the vulnerability and develop a certain socialization within terrorism. This
forensic mental health science presentation presents an empirically based conceptual framework
on the issues that surround forensic practices in recruitment of people for acts of terrorism and
possible rating system to develop an assessment of risk.
6. Eric Jacobs, M.A., JoJo Lee, M.A., Elizabeth Grace, M.A.* & Ronn Johnson, Ph.D.,
*George Fox University University of San Diego
"Group treatment and psychopathology: Building community capacity via culturally
responsive mental health services"
The mental health of a given community can have far-reaching implications. Untreated mental
health issues can not only impact the individual and their loved ones, but also the community as a
whole in the form of community resources and loss to workforce, to name a few. One option for
treatment includes group counseling. However, not all community members share the same needs,
cultures, or approaches to obtaining help. Providing outreach and care that only pertains to the
dominate culture will lead to less effective treatment. This presentation will explore the research
associated with the effectiveness of group treatment and psychopathology, in culturally responsive
approaches. All stages of the group treatment, beginning with outreach, will be discussed. The
presentation will conclude with questions and open discussion on this topic.
Page 10 Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring/Summer 2015
7. Michelle Jimenez, M.A. Cindy Kim, M.A., * and Ronn Johnson, Ph.D., ABPP
*University of Iowa University of San Diego
"Procedural justice theory around legitimacy and public confidence in community-police
Relationships between communities and police have been significantly strained within recent
years. High profile deaths in the community and retribution style killing of police officers further
add to distrust and fear from both community members and police officers, themselves. Perceived
legitimacy of police authority within ethno-racially diverse communities continue to be a topic of
concern. Legitimacy is associated with a property of authority that guides individuals to feel those
authority figures should be obeyed. Procedural justice concerns the perceived fairness of actions
involved in decision-making as well as the perceived treatment one receives from the responsible
decision-makers. Where police departments are involved, procedural justice theory and legitimacy
are concerned with the anticipated fairness of the police officers decision-making as it is viewed
by the community being served. Taking a procedural justice perspective to policing and decision-
making can increase the collaborative relationship, as well as, aid in building trust, confidence,
and fear reduction within ethno-racially diverse community settings. The overall goal is to provide
a framework in which police relationships with communities can function in a collaborative
8. JoJo Lee, M.A., Elizabeth Grace, M.A. ,Berenis Gonzalez, M.A. and Ronn Johnson,
University of San Diego
"Community-Police relations: A Muslim perspective"
With growing coverage in the media regarding Muslim extremists and their relation to terrorist
organizations, there has been an increase in discrimination towards the Muslim community. Police
officers and public safety officials in positions of authority may be at an increased risk to engage
in legal and ethical misconduct towards this population due to overt or underlying biases. In
addition, discrimination from the general public and displaced aggression onto the Muslim
community may lead to isolation and an increased risk factors mental health issues for this
population. Islamophobia is the term used to define the prejudice or hatred towards the Islamic
religion and individuals who identify as Muslim. This hatred may also project onto individuals or
ethnic groups who are perceived as Muslim. This presentation explores the relationships between
community-police prejudice, and the effects of Islamophobia, through a multidimensional
The Forensic Social Scientist Page 11
9. JoJo Lee, M.A. and Ronn Johnson, Ph.D., ABPP
University of San Diego
"Collaboration and diverse citizen participation in police conduct review boards"
Police misconduct and corruption has the potential to damage the public trust and confidence for
police departments and other government agencies. Unethical decision making skills have placed
a state of unrest and little confidence within our law enforcement and judicial system. Many
residents in the communities are fearful for their lives and the public's safety. These recent actions
have led to increased violence between civilian and law enforcement officials, in addition to
people of differing ethnic origins. In response to increasing concerns about police brutality and
abuse, agencies all over the world are implementing systems of civilian review of police conduct.
The main purposes for having the police conduct reviews are to promote the highest standard of
police conduct and foster mutual respect between law enforcement and the community. By
reducing fear, increasing ethno-racial trust in public safety, and promoting diverse citizen
participation, we believe that it can strengthen police-community relations. Actions will
furthermore call on the participation of civilians to vote, express their concerns through peaceful
meetings and demonstrations, and patience to allow for change. This presentation provides a
review of how citizen oversight has evolved in the U.S., as well as exploring and examining the
contemporary models of this system to ensure police accountability. The presentation will
conclude with a discussion of the future prospects and challenges to civilian oversight of the
10. Eric Jacobs & Ronn Johnson, Ph.D., ABPP
University of San Diego
African-American and Latina/o dissatisfaction perceptions and crafting positive community
connections to police departments
Within the past eight months, as well as prior to that, several individuals of the African American
and other ethnic communities have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement. Whether it was
out of self-defense, or failure to obey, families and communities have been outraged for quite
some time at how their loved ones were handled by police. The initial reaction and end result of
these acts have placed the level of trust and consideration for law officials in a downward spiral.
For example, Eric Gardner, and eighteen year old Mike Browns killing caused riots, looting, and
a nationwide push of protests and demonstrations amongst several ethnic backgrounds. Citizens
have been outraged at the fact that they must remain composed while engaged with police while at
the same time, feeling that the community is unsafe around them. Government officials, local and
abroad, have remained determined and vigilant in reestablishing the trust of their citizens with law
enforcement. By doing so, retraining departments, enforcing stricter laws, restructuring the chains
of command, and helping rebuild community infrastructure through construction and employment
will allow for a level of trust to be gained and citizens wont feel formidable in their own
Page 12 Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring/Summer 2015
In this corner, we spotlight the work of Lisa Taylor-Austin, NCC, LPC, LMHC, CFMHE, a
forensic expert in the field of gang research.
Being an expert witness is a challenge, rewarding and an enormous responsibility. There are times
in criminal cases when a person is facing the death penalty. In these cases, the role of the expert
can influence if a person lives or is sentenced to death. Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Sophal
Phon, Bowling Green, Kentucky, was the first case I worked on as an expert. The underlying facts
are as follows. Sophal Phon and his co-defendants, Phannachay, Pok, Sananikone, and Choeung,
were jointly indicted for the 1996 burglary, robbery, and execution-style murder of a Warren
County couple. The Commonwealth filed notice of its intent to seek the death penalty against four
of the five defendants, including Phon, then a seventeen year old juvenile. On July 5, 1998, the
day before his trial was scheduled to begin, Phon pled guilty in Warren Circuit Court to two
counts of murder, first degree assault, first degree robbery, and first degree burglary. His counsel,
decided that the jury needed to understand how a gang member or associate could commit even a
heinous crime, under duress. I was brought in to testify during the sentencing phase and ultimately
the final judgement was Phon was sentenced to Life without Parole. The responsibility in this case
was enormous. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the issue of the death penalty being used in a
juvenile case was being argued. (
Since that time, I have testified or consulted on over forty cases in state, federal, or immigration
venues. It wasnt until 2013; I had my first experience with a civil case. In Aeriel, et al. v. State-
Operated School District of the City of Newark, et al., the plaintiffs filed a civil suit against the
city, school district and named individuals, for the wrongful death of four young potential college
students. In 2008, Natasha Aeriel of Newark and the parents of the deceased Lofemi Hightower,
Dashon Harvey and Terrance Aeriel, sued in state Superior Court in Essex County claiming the
state failed to properly secure and guard the schoolyard at Mount Vernon Elementary School,
where Hightower, Harvey and Terrance Aeriel were murdered "execution style" in 2007. Natasha
Aeriel was shot in the head but survived. Three friends were forced to kneel against a wall behind
an elementary school and were shot to death at close range, and a fourth was found about 30 feet
away with gunshot and knife wounds to her head, police said. All were from Newark and planned
to attend Delaware State University. This case gained national attention due to the heinous method
in which the deceased were killed. Katie Couric covered the story (watch here https://, as well as Fox News and the New York Times
( The
civil case was filed by the plaintiffs to hold the city and school district accountable for graffiti
that was allowed to remain on the playground, despite a district policy to photograph, remove and
report the graffiti. It was opined by me and by other witnesses that the gate being left open by
district personnel, allowed gangs, the murderers and ultimately the victims to enter the property.
My role as a gang and graffiti expert was to review the photographs of the scene, review the
discovery and formulate and opinion about the influence the graffiti had on the murders. Initially I
underwent a thorough nine hour deposition, followed by preparation for trial and testimony in the
Essex County Court. The defendants settled the case for at least $3 million dollars.
Gang Expert in Court
The Forensic Social Scientist Page 13
In each of these cases, and on other I have worked on, the experts opinion can be crucial to the
outcome of a case. As an impartial witness, an expert may opine in a manner that the attorneys
and even the Court may not agree with. However, it is up to the jury or Court to consider the
opinion of the expert and to weigh their opinion along with the other evidence in the case. Being
an expert is a great responsibility and one that a professional should not take lightly.
Lisa Taylor-Austin
57 Plains Road, Suite 2C
Milford, Connecticut 06461
Consulting opportunities in the area of miscarriage of justice/wrongful convictions are increasing
here in the U.S. It seems that plaintiff cases against police for negligent investigations already are
well-stocked with experts. Dr. Daniel B. Kennedy has helped defend several agencies against
charges of tunnel vision/conformation bias in investigations, misuse of false confession, and the
use of invalid eyewitness evidence. According to Dr. Kennedy, there is a need to accumulate
reasonable theories, and there are several in these areas.
Would you like to become a member of FSSA? Do you have ideas for new courses, composite
cases, ethical scenarios, and practice standards in the forensic social sciences? Would you like to
share your experiences as a witness or consultant? Are you a student who has questions about
careers in the forensic social sciences? We welcome your input for future issues. Please email to:
Dr. Stephen J. Morewitz, Editor,
The Forensic Social Scientist at
*Dennis, the managing editor of the FSSA newsletter, has worked for Forensic Criminology
Associates, Inc. since August of 2008. In his current role, Dennis serves as Director of Research.
In addition to Dennisforensic work, he is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Wayne State
University, Detroit, Michigan. Dennis has published an article in Security Journal and a book
chapter dealing with crime and security at shopping centers. His dissertation is focused on how
gendered spaces in society play a role in decreasing the gender gap in violent victimizations.
Practice Tips
FSSA Membership, Comments, and Future Contributions
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