The Fund for Investigative Journalism

Supporting investigative reporting projects around the world

  • Next Application Deadline

    Monday Sept. 25, 2017 - 11:59 pm (Eastern)
  • Questions swirl in Indiana around validity of mental competency testimony

    Steve Burger of WNIN public radio of Indiana delved into the background of a psychologist often hired as an expert court witness after the psychologist was convicted of felony charges for falsifying an evaluation in one case.  The psychologist, Albert Fink, had performed dozens of competency evaluations over the last 10 years, and those evaluations were now under question after authorities said he confessed to falsifying a report related to a trial at which he was supposed to offer testimony. WNIN’s reporting revealed a system easily abused because it lacks adequate oversight. Courts rely on psychologists to assess the mental fitness of defendants, but serious questions now swirl around how courts determine mental competency in Indiana and what system of oversight is in place to ensure defendants get a valid examination.

    As part of its ongoing investigation, WNIN uncovered a list of 29 cases in which it is suspected the doctor may have falsified the evaluations. WhenWNIN contacted the chief public defender of the Indiana Supreme Court, officials took the unusual step of actually reaching out to the defendants in those other cases to advise them of their options.

    (In photo by AJ Casey for WNIN, Psychologist Albert Fink at a court hearing in GIbson County, Indiana. The doctor was charged with obstruction of justice after admitting he had faked court-ordered mental health examinations.)

    [Reporting for this project was provided by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.]
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