Park Dietz: Expert Witness

His firm has been called upon to help celebrities deal with obsessive fans; to aid FBI investigators in tracking serial killers; to help large corporations diffuse that potential disgruntled worker who just might bring a gun to work.

Now Kitsap County prosecutors are hoping Park Dietz, perhaps the most notable forensic psychiatrist in the nation, can help them by engaging in another of his specialties: unraveling the insanity defense.

Dietz will come to Port Orchard in late January and early February to testify on behalf of prosecutors against Wayne Hower, accused by police of killing Port Orchard resident Al Kono in June (see the Kitsap Sun’s article here). Hower, diagnosed with schizophrenia, has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity in Kono’s
shooting death.

Defense attorneys for Hower argue that previous reports by one private doctor and another Western State Hospital doctor outline a “textbook” case of insanity (see the Kitsap Sun’s most recent article here).

Prosecutors and Hower’s defense are gearing up for a two- to three-week hearing beginning Jan. 30 before Superior Court Judge Leila Mills to determine whether Hower should stand trial for the crime or be acquitted and placed in Western State Hospital.

On one hand, Dietz has been called a brilliant doctor who sees through – and helps juries to see through – what its critics believe is a shady defense. On the other, he’s seen as a prosecution’s gun-for-hire, almost exclusively a witness for the state.

Here’s Dietz’s defense for always being on the side of the prosecution, from a May 1999 “Psychology Today” article and interview:

“I have been a witness for the defense, but it’s rarer. In
part, that’s because of the way I decide which cases to take. The one rule
at our office is that if the client won’t agree to show us anything we
want to see, we won’t work for him. That turns out to be a problem that
limits what cases we can take, because the ethics of law are different
from the ethics of science or medicine or psychology in that only
prosecutors have a duty to disclose everything that helps
find the truth. Neither side in a civil suit has such a duty, and the
defense in a criminal case actually has a duty not to do so. Their duty
lies with their client only, and where the truth hurts their client, they
need to fight to conceal it. So it takes either a genuinely innocent
defendant for the attorney to want to share the truth – and that’s
incredibly rare – or a sophisticated attorney who realizes that he’s
better off giving his own experts the bad news so they can take it into
account and not be surprised and torpedoed in court. With rare exceptions,
people are responsible for what they do. Killers seldom meet the legal
standard for insanity, which is quite different from the way most people
use the word every day. Killers may be
disturbed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t tell right
from wrong or are compelled to maim or murder.”

(To read the entire interview with Dietz, click here.)

If his work as a prosecution’s witness for the Hower case is anything like his past testimonies, then Dietz will likely attempt to prove that despite his mental illness, the suspect knew right from wrong in the June shooting of Kono.

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