Lewinski received his PhD from Union Institute and University in Ohio in 1988.
“He did his courses over the internet,” Haddad says. “At the end of it, they gave him a degree of a PhD. He called himself a police psychologist. I believe at the time I took his deposition, there was nobody else in the United States with that title. He made it up.”
Two years ago, Chicago lawyer Melvin Brooks questioned Lewinski prior to this testimony in a case in which a police officer shot an armed teenager who was running away from him.
In a motion filed with the court, Brooks argued Lewinski’s degree “is not worth the paper it is written on,” and that Lewinski had conceded he is not an expert in biomechanics, use of force, ballistics, or any of the “hard sciences” like anatomy or physics.
Brooks lost his motion to bar the psychologist from testifying.
He also lost the civil suit against the police. In allowing Lewinski to give evidence, the judge cited his “extensive 40 years of experience domestically and abroad,” noting his explanations “were helpful to the jury.”
“You know the courts are buying into it for the most part,” Brooks says. “Which is somewhat unbelievable to me, because it’s really not based on science.”
In analyzing the shooting of Paul Boyd, Lewinski’s opinion was that the stress of the incident rendered the officer who did the shooting, “inattentionally blind.”
“Inattentional blindness” is a subject University of Illinois psychology professor Dan Simons knows well. While at Harvard, he and a colleague conducted experiments which demonstrated people can fail to notice things in front of them if they’re focused on something else. They co-authored a popular book on the subject in 2010.
Simons found that when asked to concentrate on a video of people passing basketballs around, they frequently failed to see a person wearing gorilla suit walk right through the scene.
Simons, who’s studied the phenomenon for 15 years, says he’s asked nearly every week to testify in court for one case or another. He says always declines, because while inattentional blindness may be an explanation for errors in judgement, you can never be certain. As for the Boyd case, Simons is reluctant to weigh in.
“It sounds like a case of misperception as opposed to inattentional blindness,” he offers tentatively.
Simons says years ago, Lewinski asked him to come and talk at one of the many training seminars he offers to law enforcement. Simons declined.
“Within the scientific world, he doesn’t really do anything on inattentional blindness that I know of. So would he count as an expert in the scientific world? No.”