By Brenda Rufener
A forensic psychologist is an expert in the overlapping fields of psychology and the justice system. Working with the criminal justice system and often testifying in criminal trials as an expert witness, are among the duties of a forensic psychologist. Due to their level of expertise, forensic psychologists are called to assess future risk of the accused, provide treatment recommendations to the court, and evaluate witness credibility. They work closely with the court and provide competency and sanity evaluations for the judge. The client base of the forensic psychologist is largely criminal, exposing them to a dark and abnormal population.
The methodology for selecting the 30 most influential forensic psychologists working today includes notoriety within the field of study, extent of publication in academic journals and books, and the provision offered to the forensic psychological community. Prestigious honors, teaching distinction, and global popularity also impacts the selection process.
30. Saul Kassin
Distinguished Professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and part-time instructor at Williams College, Saul Kassin is the author of numerous books used in the field of forensic psychology. In the mid-80s, Kassin was honored with the U.S. Supreme Court Judicial Fellowship and has previously worked for the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. Kassin’s most famous work is the initiation of a scientific study on false confessions. The classifications he created (voluntary, coerced compliant, and coerced-internalized) are used all over the world. Kassin appears regularly as a guest analyst on many major television networks and syndicated news broadcasts.
29. David V. Canter
David Canter began his career as an architectural psychologist. He provided consultation and counseling on designs and framework for prisons, schools, public housing, and other architectural forms. His research in architecture led to studies on human reaction in emergencies, such as fires. In Britain, he pioneered the field of investigative psychology when he led the police on the Railway Rapist case. Canter has authored numerous books on criminal psychology, and today is recognized as the founder and director of the International Academy for Investigative Psychology.
28. Max Wachtel
Max Wachtel graduated from the University of Denver with a doctorate in counseling psychology. He is a forensic psychologist by training and provides clinical evaluation of criminal offenders for the courts and private practice law offices. His new book, The One Rule for Boys, examines the importance of raising an empathetic and emotionally intelligent generation of males. He is a well-known television psychologist with 9NEWS in Denver, Colorado, where he sheds light on the human mind. Wachtel is a faculty member at the University of Denver, where he teaches ethical and legal issues in psychology. His former work includes consultation with the State District Court, Federal Court, and Military Court Martials.
27. Margaret Bull Kovera
Since receiving her PhD in social psychology from the University of Minnesota, Margaret Kovera has received continuous funding from the National Science Foundation for her studies on eyewitness identification, scientific evidence collection, and jury decision-making. Her research has been published in some of the most respected journals and magazines in the field of psychology. Kovera received the Saleem Shah Award for Early Career Achievement in Psychology and Law, as well as outstanding teacher and mentor recognitions. She is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and routinely acts as a consultant and expert witness in high profile cases that involve eyewitness identification.
A Professor Emeritus at the University of Tennessee’s Department of Anthropology, Richard Jantz is a leader in skeletal biology, forensic anthropology, and anthropological genetics. His years of research have helped shaped the field of forensic psychology and anthropology. From 1998-2011, Jantz served as the director of the Forensic Anthropology Center. His vast publications and papers have earned him notoriety in and out of the field of science. Jantz played a critical role in the scientific study and legal challenge associated with the discovery of Kennewick Man.
25. Douglas W. Owsley
Douglas Owsley is an influential forensic anthropologist and archaeologists recognized in the field of forensic psychology because of his research and ongoing studies surrounding high profile cases, such as Jeffrey Dahmer’s first victim, Kennewick Man, and Waco Branch Davidian Compound victims. The current Division Head of Physical Anthropology for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Owsley has been honored by the US Department of Defense for his work on the victims of the 9/11 Pentagon disaster. His biography has been featured on the Discovery Channel and recognized in the National Geographic and Smithsonian Magazine.
24. James Chatters
Recognized as one of the leading American forensic anthropologists and psychologists in the world, James Chatters is known for his excavation and study of the prehistoric remains of the Kennewick Man, found along the banks of the Columbia River. A graduate of the University of Washington in Seattle, Dr. Chatters is the owner of a well-known forensics consulting firm, Applied Paleoscience. His firm consults worldwide leaders and government agencies. Chatters is a consulting scientist and research associate at Central Washington University.
23. Werner Spitz
Werner Spitz is a forensic pathologist recognized for his work on a number of high-profile cases, including the civil trial against O.J. Simpson, the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Jon Benet Ramsey death. Dr. Spitz has authored numerous books, including the Spitz and Fisher’s Medicolegal Investigation of Death, considered to be the “bible of forensic pathology.” Today, Spitz is a professor of pathology at Wayne State University School of Medicine and an adjunct professor at the University of Windsor in Canada.
22. Aldert Vrij
Studies in verbal and nonverbal cues of deception, accompanied with lie detection, have made Aldert Vrij one of the most influential forensic psychologists of today. A professor at the University of Portsmouth’s Department of Psychology and editor of the “Legal and Criminological Psychology” publication, Vrij provides insight into the field of forensic psychology. Vrij offers regular consultation as an expert witness on high-profile crimes and advises police and the FBI on hard-to-solve cases. Vrij has published more than 300 journal articles used widely in the field.
An associate professor of forensics psychology and non-fiction true crime author, Katherine Ramsland is a critically acclaimed forensic psychologist. She holds degrees in forensic psychology, clinical psychology, and criminal justice, along with a doctorate in philosophy from Rutgers University. Ramsland has published over 1,000 articles and authored and co-authored 47 books in the areas of forensic science, crime, and the supernatural. She is recognized as the lead researcher in clinical vampirism and played a key role in the study of John Brennan Crutchley, known as the Florida Vampire Rapist.
20. Corine de Ruiter
Professor of Forensic Psychology at the prestigious Maastricht University, Corine de Ruiter is a consultant for criminal justice agencies and licensed clinical psychologist in The Netherlands. Her research includes focus on the relationship between violence and mental disorders, as well as the risk for future violence. She has published numerous journal articles and books, and served as the Associate Editor of the International Journal of Forensic Mental Health until 2014. De Ruiter has served as the President of the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services.
19. Mary Alice Conroy
A Professor of Psychology and the Director of Clinical Training at Sam Houston State University, Mary Alice Conroy is a recognized leader in the field of forensic psychology. Her research interests include civil commitment evaluations, risk assessment, and forensic clinical psychology. Conroy’s experience in the field includes working with the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Forensic Psychology. She has published a number of books and journal articles. Her work may be found in the Journal of Forensic Psychology.
18. Casey Jordan
Casey Jordan is considered a celebrity criminologist, with over one thousand television spots among the major networks. She is an expert on violent crime and a behavior analyst for the private sector. Jordan is a professor at Western Connecticut State University and a private practice attorney. Jordan serves as a regular keynote speaker at conferences and training seminars, and consults the FBI on child abuse and family violence. Dr. Jordan has authored numerous books and scholarly articles, and is considered an expert in the field of forensic psychology.
17. Patricia Zapf
Patricia Zapf is the author of eight books and manuals, eighty journal articles, and research studies surrounding the assessment of criminal competencies. Her manual, Suicide Assessment Manual for Inmates, is international recognized within the prison system and forensic psychology field. Zapf is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and serves as a consultant for various policy organizations and the criminal justice departments in New York. She maintains a private practice that assesses forensics and criminology.
16. Cathy Widom
Distinguished Professor in Psychology at John Jay College and fellows of the American Psychological Association and American Society of Criminology, Cathy Widom is a national consultant in the fields of psychology and criminology. Widom sits on various panels, from congressional to state, testifying as an expert witness in the areas of child abuse and neglect. Her research has earned various awards, including the American Association for the Advancement of Behavioral Research Prize. Her papers on the cycle of violence have received critical acclaim.
15. Julie Christiansen
Julie Christiansen is a dynamic speaker and trainer known to the world as “The Anger Lady.” A graduate of Yorkville University, Julie Christiansen has become a spokesperson in the psychology arena due to her research and focus on anger solutions. She draws an active online community and offers customized presentations and workshops in the corporate and private sector. Christiansen routinely provides consultation on high profile criminal cases because of her understanding on anger and stress related violence. She maintains a psychotherapy practice in the Niagara region.
14. Gísli Gudjónsson
Gudjónsson is a professor of forensic psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry of King’s College in London. His authority in the field of forensic psychology is international, particularly because of his false confessions study and expert testimony on the convictions of the Birmingham Six. In 1982, Gudjónsson coined the term “memory distrust syndrome” based on his research of those who distrust their own memories. In 2011, he was appointed on the Queen’s birthday, as the Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to clinical psychology.
13. Michael Baden
Michael Baden is the author and co-author of over eighty books and professional publications on the aspects of forensic psychology and medicine. His specialty is forensics pathology and he operates a private forensics consulting practice in New York. Dr. Baden is known for his work investigating high-profile criminal cases and deaths, and recognized as the host of the HBO show, Autopsy. He has investigated cases involving John Belushi, Sid Vicious, and the most recent, Michael Brown.
12. Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal received his doctorate in counseling psychology from Columbia University and today teaches clinical and forensic psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. He has been seen on various television shows and news broadcasts due to his outspoken views discrimination and the gay community. Dr. Nadal is the author of various books and publications, including Filipino American Psychology – a handbook on theory, research, and clinical practice. In his spare time, Dr. Nadal performs poetry and comedy at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City.
11. Eric Hickey
Eric Hickey is the Dean of the California School of Forensic Studies at Alliant International University where he teaches classes in predator profiling and criminal psychology. Dr. Hickey’s field experience includes research working with the criminally insane, psychopaths, and habitual offenders. His work has been published extensively in the form of books, lectures, and journal articles. He is currently working on his first fiction novel, entitled The Crib, showcasing the disturbing journey into the minds of the criminally insane. Dr. Hickey is a former FBI consultant.
10. Kim Rossmo
A Canadian criminologist and forensic psychologist, Kim Rossmo specializes in geographic profiling and criminal investigations. He serves as the University Endowed Chair in Criminology and is the Director of the Center of Geospatial Intelligence for the Criminal Justice department at Texas State University. Dr. Rossmo works with the government in studying terrorist cells, with ongoing research on the insurgency problems in Iraq and illegal boarder crossings near Texas. Dr. Rossmo is a member of the IACP Advisory Committee for Police Investigative Operations and on the editorial boards for Homicide Studies and the Journal of Investigative Psychology.
9. Ivory Toldson
Recognized as a leader in forensic psychology, Dr. Ivory Toldson is an associate professor at Howard University and senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. He is also the editor-in-chief of The Journal of Negro Education. Dr. Toldson completed his doctorate in counseling psychology from Temple University and later became a forensic psychologist at the United States Penitentiary. His dissertation focused on black men in the criminal justice system. His ongoing work includes research regarding misled media statistics and the link between black males to crime and their ability to learn.
8. Robert Schug
Robert Schug’s area of specialty is psychopathy, violent crime, and the biology and psychology of the criminal mind. An assistant professor of criminology, criminal justice, and forensic psychology at California State University, Long Beach, Dr. Schug educates students on antisocial behavior within major mental disorders. His undergraduate work was completed at California State University and his graduate work took place at the University of Southern California. His doctorate degree is in psychology and clinical neurosciences.
7. Henry Fradella
Professor of Law, Forensic Studies, and Criminal Justice at California State University, Dr. Henry Fradella is an influential forensic psychologist with specialized areas in mental health issues in correctional populations and insanity defenses. Dr. Fradella’s research covers law and social control, with a focus on the intersection of social and forensic sciences. Fradella received his background in forensics from George Washington University, where he also secured a law degree. His doctorate in interdisciplinary justice studies is from Arizona State University.
6. Marcus Felson
Marcus Felson is a professor at Texas State University known for his expertise in how to think about crime in a tangible and deducing manner. His books include Crime and Nature and Crime and Everyday Life, both which focus on crime analysis and crime reduction. Most of Dr. Felson’s application and research focuses on understanding juvenile street gangs, organized crime, and drug sales. He profiles criminals on the local and state level, and routinely shares his expertise on the international level.
5. Margaret Rombone
Margaret Rombone received her Ph.D. from Adelphi University, specializing in clinical psychology. She is a member of the American Psychological Association and New York State Psychological Association. Dr. Rombone operates a private practice with offices in Manhattan and Douglaston, and has worked in the Department of Psychiatry and Division on Substance Abuse at Columbia University since 2003. Her selected publications include psychodynamic investigations of the unconscious relationship between childhood trauma and adult choice. Her work is internationally published and useful to the forensic psychology field.
4. John D. Dombrink
Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Berkeley, John Dombrink is a world-renowned researcher in crime and criminal justice, deviance, and social control. He is the co-author of Sin No More and author of numerous journal articles on legal treatment. He is a respected professor and director of the mentor-mentee social ecology program, providing academic support to first-generation college students. Dr. Dombrink speaks at symposiums and conferences worldwide and is a highly sought after researcher in the fields of forensic psychology, criminology, and social ecology.
3. Valerie Jenness
Valerie Jenness is the Dean of the School of Social Ecology and a professor for the Department of Criminology at the University of California. Her research includes extensive study on hate crime, prison violence, and prostitution. Jenness has authored four books and has been honored by the American Sociological Association and the Western Society of Criminology. Jenness routinely serves as an expert witness in civil litigation. Her research has been honored globally and translated and reprinted in over five languages.
2. David Wilson
Known for his expertise on serial killers, David Wilson is a professor of criminology at Birmingham City University. As a student at Cambridge, Wilson was recruited by Her Majesty’s Prison Service to work as a junior prison governor. He later became Head of the Prison Officer. Wilson has published numerous works, including journal articles and popular columns for The Guardian. He has authored more than fifteen books on serial murders, British crime, and the British prison systems. Today, Wilson is the editor of the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, and regularly appears on radio and television.
1. Henry Lee
One of the most recognized and internationally known forensic scientists and psychologists in the world is Dr. Henry Lee. Known for his consultation on many high profile crime cases, including that of O.J. Simpson, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and Laci Peterson, Dr. Lee is one of the most respected experts in the field. He is a graduate of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and New York University. Dr. Lee founded the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science and today is the most influential person in forensics today.
About the Author
Brenda Rufener is an internationally published freelance writer and journalist living in North Carolina. She holds a graduate degree in Communications and undergraduate degrees in Biology and English.