December 20, 2007

Fascinating new twists in Tim Masters case

Expert witness psychologist cited FBI profiler who had rejected prosecution theory of case

The forensic psychology angles in Tim Masters' ongoing motion for a new trial in Fort Collins, Colorado are increasingly fascinating. Here are a few of the newest:

Roy Hazelwood, the pioneering FBI profiler, was hired as a police consultant but rejected the police theory of the case, which linked 15-year-old Masters to a 1987 sex-murder based on the boy's doodles. Police withheld this information from defense attorneys at Masters' 1999 trial, and Hazelwood was never called as a witness.

With Hazelwood giving a thumbs-down to the police theory, prominent forensic psychologist Reid Meloy became the prosecution's star witness. He did exactly what Hazelwood had cautioned against, connecting Masters to the killing based on a series of violent sketches. Ironically, Meloy cited Hazelwood's theories on profiling as a basis for his opinion.

In addition to the "scary doodles," as they have been dubbed by the media, Meloy theorized that the date linked the killing to Masters, because it was the anniversary of the date that Masters' mother had gone to a hospital. But the information now being turned over by prosecutors suggests that this theory was fed to Meloy by Fort Collins police.

No physical evidence has ever linked Masters to the crime. The newly revealed police notes reflect that authorities were suspicious of a suspected sex offender who lived nearby and later killed himself. Authorities destroyed evidence linking that man, eye surgeon Richard Hammond, to the murder, and did not provide his name to the defense.

The ongoing hearings are aimed at getting a new trial for Masters, who is serving a life sentence, and also getting sanctions against the original prosecutors, both of whom are now judges, for withholding evidence.

The moral for forensic psychologists: Carefully protect your neutrality and independence; never let partisans for one side or the other influence (or appear to influence) your theories or findings.

Note: A more recent post on this case is here.

For my earlier blog posts on this case, click HERE and/or HERE. A Denver Post video, "The Story of Tim Masters," shows details of Masters' police interrogations. The Pro Libertate blog has case analysis, graphics, and links. A blog dedicated to the case, Free Tim Masters Because, has a lengthy page devoted to the role of Dr. Meloy.

Other news coverage includes:
Undisclosed Masters evidence nags, Denver Post, Dec. 20, 2007Notes in Masters case wanted "profile" stricken, Denver Post, Dec. 18, 2007Attorneys: It was the doctor - Master’s defense says Hammond had all the makings of real killer, Reporter Herald (Loveland, CO), Dec. 18, 2007Testimony returns to subject of expert, Reporter Herald, Dec. 17, 2007