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Art on TrialArt Therapy in Capital Murder Cases$
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David Gussak

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231162517

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231162517.001.0001

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The Case Study

The Case Study

Summary, Reflections, and Ethics

(p.127) 6 The Case Study
Art on Trial

David E. Gussak

Columbia University Press

This chapter summarizes and evaluates the case of Kevin Ward. One of the most important elements of Ward's case was that Gussak arrived at the same diagnostic conclusion as the other expert witnesses—a psychologist and a psychiatrist—validating the value of the art as evidence. Ward's art could have been approached in several ways: establish meaning through the formal elements of the images, present possible symbolic content to ascertain personal significance, or some combination of the two. But Gussak focused on the formal elements of the art pieces rather than the symbolic content because empirical studies have shown that a drawing's formal elements may reveal specific types of mental illness. The chapter argues that whereas symbolic imagery may reveal personal issues and emotional tendencies—including the presence of a mental illness—it is unlikely that the content of an image can specify the type of mental illness.

Keywords:   Kevin Ward, diagnostic conclusion, expert witnesses, art, formal elements, symbolic content, mental illness, symbolic imagery

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