March 15, 2012, Testimony

SCDC presented its final witness today, Columbia psychologist Selman Watson. Dr. Watson testified regarding the contract services he provides to the South Carolina Department of Corrections, explaining that he works at SCDC one to two days per week, primarily conducting psychological evaluations. 

Dr. Watson’s testimony focused primarily on his recent psychological evaluation of Damon Howard, an inmate who testified in court earlier during the trial. Dr. Watson offered the opinion that Mr. Howard is not psychotic, but is instead malingering his symptoms.  He testified that he believes Mr. Howard is clearly an actor.   

However, despite stressing the importance of considering all available collateral sources of information, including the patient’s mental health and presentation history, before rendering a diagnosis, Dr. Watson admitted that he did not review Mr. Howard’s medical records and did not even ask to see them. He also admitted that he did not know whether Mr. Howard was medicated on the day he was evaluated.    

When presented with excerpts from Mr. Howard’s medical records showing that Mr. Howard has a long history of consistent symptoms, and also that various SCDC psychiatrists have consistently found Mr. Howard delusional and schizophrenic for several years, Dr. Watson maintained his opinion that Mr. Howard is faking it.  Dr. Watson testified that even though this was his first time ever meeting Mr. Howard, and that he only spent an hour and a half evaluating him, he nonetheless disagrees with the diagnoses rendered by Mr. Howard’s treating psychiatrists who have treated him for years.

Following Dr. Watson’s testimony, the Defendants rested their case.  Closing arguments will take place on Friday, March 23, at the Richland County Judicial Center.