Art on Trial

Art on Trial: Art Therapy in Capital Murder Cases

DAVID E. GUSSAK
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/guss16250
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  • Book Info
    Art on Trial
    Book Description:

    A man kidnaps his two children, murders one, and attempts to kill the other. The prosecution seeks the death penalty, while the defense employs an unusual strategy to avoid the sentence. The defendant's attorneys turn to more than 100 examples of his artwork, created over many years, to determine whether he was mentally ill at the time he committed the crimes. Detailing an outstanding example of the use of forensic art therapy in a capital murder case, David Gussak, an art therapist contracted by the defense to analyze the images that were to be presented as evidence, recounts his findings and his testimony in court, as well as the future implications of his work for criminal proceedings.

    Gussak describes the role of the art therapist as an expert witness in a murder case, the way to use art as evidence, and the conclusions and assessments that professionals can draw from a defendant's artworks. He examines the effectiveness of expert testimony as communicated by the prosecution, defense, and court, and weighs the moral, ethical, and legal consequences of relying on such evidence. For professionals and general readers, this gripping volume presents a convincing account of the ability of art to reflect a damaged and dangerous psyche. A leading text on an emerging field, Art on Trial demonstrates the practical applications of an innovative approach to clinical assessment and treatment.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53427-7
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xx)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Assessments, Art Therapy, and Forensics
    (pp. 1-20)

    A man kidnapped, beat, raped, and killed three women in the Midwest over a 3-year period in the 1980s. A fourth would-be victim escaped. The defendant, Benjamin Stevens,* was convicted of three counts of murder and four counts of rape. His prison term has since been commuted to six consecutive life sentences.

    In the early 1980s, a jury in the Midwest convicted Randy Thomas of having murdered two people. Originally sentenced to death, he appealed and his conviction was commuted.

    In the early 1990s, three people were shot to death at a convenience store; exactly one week later, three more...

  6. PART I. ART AND THE MURDERER:: A CASE STUDY

    • 1 HOW IT BEGAN
      (pp. 23-46)

      On November 1, 2006, I received a telephone call from an attorney named Lisa Peters. The purpose of her call was to ask if I would consider serving as a consultant for a capital murder case, with the possibility of providing testimony should it go to trial. She offered no information about the case—only that the defendant was on trial for murder and the state district attorney was going to seek the death penalty. The defense was investigating the possible history of a mental illness, and the defendant had a long history of creating his own artwork. I was...

    • 2 THE JAILHOUSE MEETING
      (pp. 47-64)

      A month before I was scheduled to meet with Kevin Ward, I was told that the defense team had accepted a plea agreement with the prosecution and the court—Ward would plead guilty and, in return, would not be put to death. However, he would still have to appear before a judge to receive his prison sentence, which was not to exceed 100 years.

      Despite the plea bargain, I was still expected to meet with Ward and provide an assessment report to the defense team. The sentencing hearing was scheduled for the following month, and the defense attorneys planned to...

    • 3 MORE ART AND THE FOLLOW-UP
      (pp. 65-74)

      In the summer of 2009, I was scheduled to meet with Bill Williams, the chief deputy prosecutor of the county, to give a deposition. Before being deposed, I visited Kevin Ward to review the latest images received from Jackie Chief.

      After I was taken to the office where several pieces of Kevin Ward’s art were stored, I was given the opportunity to photograph a number of them for evaluation before my next meeting with Ward. He had completed most of these works since his arrest, but several of them had been done in his studio. For some unknown reason, they...

  7. PART II. DEFENDING THE ART

    • 4 THE DEPOSITION
      (pp. 77-94)

      Shortly after my meeting with Kevin Ward, the defense counsel accompanied me to the office of the chief deputy prosecutor, Bill Williams, in the courthouse. A tall, relaxed, and clean-cut man, Williams had a genial manner and was courteous and friendly throughout the deposition. He had worked as a deputy prosecutor in various counties since graduating from law school in 1999. Before earning his law degree, he was a certified legal intern in a prosecutor’s office, a caseworker in a “child support division,” and a receptionist in another prosecutor’s office. He had even served as a probation officer for a...

    • Figures
      (pp. None)
    • 5 THE TESTIMONY
      (pp. 95-124)

      In August 2009, I again flew to the Midwest. I was scheduled to testify the next day before the judge, the honorable D. Beam, at Kevin Ward’s sentencing hearing. Although not the actual trial originally anticipated, at the risk of sounding callous and selfish, this would still be an opportunity to put the art “on the stand” and perhaps ascertain its effectiveness as evidence in determining mental illness.

      After checking into my hotel room, I set up my computer to review the art that I would present in court the next day. Over the weeks since the deposition, I decided...

  8. PART III. ANALYSIS AND IMPLICATIONS

    • 6 THE CASE STUDY: Summary, Reflections, and Ethics
      (pp. 127-146)

      During my almost 3-year involvement in the capital murder case against Kevin Ward, a distinct and predictable course of action developed, each step requiring careful consideration. Following my initial “blind” review of Ward’s art in 2006, the defense attorneys secured approval from a judge to hire me as an expert witness. Although he did not wish to provide too much information about the case, he did indicate that although there was not a formal “Daubert hearing conducted in this case . . . I guess it was one of those decisions that I had to make in this instance, as...

    • 7 ART THERAPISTS AS EXPERT WITNESSES: Three More Capital Cases
      (pp. 147-174)

      A man kidnapped, beat, raped and killed three women in the Midwest over a 3-year period in the 1980s. A fourth would-be victim escaped. The defendant, Benjamin Stevens, was convicted of three counts of murder and four counts of rape. His prison term has since been commuted to six consecutive life sentences.

      In the early 1980s, a jury in the Midwest convicted Randy Thomas of having murdered two people. Originally sentenced to death, he appealed and his conviction was commuted.

      In the early 1990s, three people were shot to death at a convenience store; exactly one week later, three more...

    • 8 FORENSIC ART THERAPY REVISITED
      (pp. 175-182)

      A term coined by Marcia Sue Cohen-Liebman, “forensic art therapy” is the use of art to help resolve legal matters in dispute (Cohen-Liebman, 1999, 2003; Gussak & Cohen-Liebman, 2001). Cohen-Liebman (2003) offered three significant advantages for using drawings in a forensic context:

      As interviewing tools, drawings are used in a supportive capacity in the investigation of legal matters.

      In the capacity of charge enhancement, drawings provide contextual information that can contribute to the determination of charges as well as the identification of additional arenas to investigate.

      Drawings as judiciary aids provide evidentiary material that is admissible in judicial proceedings. (p. 171)...

  9. REFERENCES
    (pp. 183-190)