Officials seething over tape of Rader
Defense lawyers and prosecuters say they'll figure out how a psychologist's interview landed in NBC's hands
03/27/2012 2:03 PM
03/27/2012 2:03 PM
As a two-hour special about BTK aired Friday on national television, dozens of Wichita criminal justice officials were questioning the ethics of a psychologist whose interview with the confessed killer turned out to be the basis for the show.
Even the lawyer representing confessed serial killer Dennis Rader said he had no idea until this week that there was anything unsavory about the June 27 taped interview.
The interview was conducted by Massachusetts psychologist Robert Mendoza immediately after Rader pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder.
"Quite frankly, we trusted this guy," Rader's lawyer, Steve Osburn said Friday. "This is very surprising, very disappointing."
Wichita psychologist Howard Brodsky said that he has conducted thousands of psychological evaluations over the years, and that he has videotaped none of them.
"It's simply not protocol," he said.
Osburn said he's getting no explanation from Mendoza about the taping.
"Our attempts to contact him (this week) have proved fruitless."
Mendoza did not return telephone calls placed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday by The Eagle, and several Internet searches revealed little information about him.
Mendoza is described on one Web site as a founding partner in Cambridge Forensic Consultants who performs more than 100 psychological assessments a year for criminal and civil cases.
He is described on the group's Internet site as a specialist in how brain function affects criminal behavior.
Osburn said Mendoza contacted his office shortly after Rader's arrest and offered his services in the case.
"We checked his references," Osburn said. "He does this nationally — serial killer stuff. We contacted attorneys all over the country, and we didn't get any negative feedback."
Osburn said Mendoza visited Rader several times between his court appearances and persuaded defense lawyers that an insanity defense was not feasible.
On the day of the guilty plea, Osburn said, Mendoza offered to conduct one last session to see if he could find anything that could be used as mitigating evidence during the sentencing.
Osburn said he knew that the interview had been taped but hadn't thought much about it.
"I was told the tape had no mitigating value whatsoever so I never saw it," he said.
Osburn said he had no idea that Mendoza's last visit was more than a routine session until Monday, when "Dateline NBC" began running promotions for its two-hour BTK special.
"No one ever said anything to me about it (the session) being an unusual procedure until Monday," he said.
Osburn said one of his assistants accompanied Mendoza to the jail before the interview, but the assistant sat outside the cell where the interview was conducted. He said the interview lasted 45 minutes to an hour.
Eventually, Osburn said, his office will try to find out how the tape ended up in the hands of NBC.
"Right now we have to just accept it as water under the bridge and go forward with sentencing."
District attorney spokeswoman Georgia Cole said Friday that her office was planning to take a close look at the matter, and she said she was confident that the entire story would eventually come out.
"We will certainly be looking into all of the circumstances surrounding this event," she said. "There appears to be something here that was not quite proper. What it is, we don't really know at this point."
One of the questions surrounding NBC's possession of the tape is whether the network paid for it.
If Mendoza did sell the tape to NBC, Brodsky said, it probably involved serious ethical violations.
The first question, Brodsky said, is whether Mendoza took advantage of Rader by asking him to sign a release that gave Mendoza full use of the tape. During an evaluation, Brodsky said, a client would find it difficult not to sign anything a psychologist places in front of him.
Brodsky said he was afraid the incident would tarnish the reputation of psychologists.
"Are people now going to be asking, 'Can I tell anything to a psychologist or is it going to end up on 'Dateline'?' " he said. "We work hard to make sure we keep things confidential."
Wichita lawyer Jay Greeno, who has handled several high-profile criminal cases, said he often has his clients evaluated by a psychologist — usually one from the Wichita area.
"I don't believe I ever had one that was videotaped," he said.