Paris Hilton incompetent? (I can’t believe I’m doubting it) 5/25/07
It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s watched me on TV, listened to me on the radio, or read my posts that I’m no fan of Paris Hilton. I think she epitomizes what’s wrong with the priorities of many in her own generation and in the generation of parents who produced them. (I also might be the only straight guy in America who doesn’t even find her all that attractive.) So, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I doubt that the woman is incompetent — in a legal sense. Ms. Hilton is scheduled to report to a California jail by June 5th to serve three weeks for repeatedly violating the terms of her probation for drunk driving. Meanwhile, she’s being sued for defamation after allegedly spreading false rumors about actress Zeta Graff. Ms. Hilton’s psychiatrist reportedly is telling the judge in that case that Ms. Hilton is incompetent to testify due to extreme stress brought on by her impending jail stay. All the while, Ms. Hilton reportedly continues to live it up on the nightclub circuit as the days count down to her extreme makeover (Versace to jail coture). Ladies and gentleman of the armchair jury, I’m here to tell you that it’s tough to be incompetent to testify as a witness in court. You have to be pretty out of it, and as unimpressive as this woman is to me, I don’t think she’s there. Looks like another instance of a starstruck Hollywood psychiatrist basing professional judgments on what a celebrity patient wants instead of what’s medically or psychologically indicated. In Ms. Hilton’s case, it’s at most unethical, but in the case of Anna Nicole Smith, it may actually have facilitated a woman’s death, which is why state licensing boards need to come down on these pseudo-psychiatrists and psychologists.
Stay tuned — when Paris goes to jail, I’ll tell you why I think it’s a great day for America.
Media, moguls, and the search for Madeline 5/24/07
We’ve all been saddened by the kidnapping of little Madeline McCann, the four-year-old British girl missing for the past three weeks, and hoping for her safe return. (On my profile page here on MySpace, I’ve linked to the McCann family’s page where readers can view photos of Madeline and participate in the search for her.) Madeline apparently was taken from her family’s vacation condo at a Portugese resort through a side window while her parents were out to dinner at an on-site restaurant within view of the condo’s front door. Since the kidnapping, major British celebs (like Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, Virgin companies’ founder Richard Branson, and soccer star David Beckham) have been ponying up millions in reward money, U.S.-based MySpace has been publicizing the case on the worldwide web, and it seems like this case is the top priority of both British law enforcement and media. I’m just wondering if I’m the only observer who’s curious about how well-connected this family seems to be. I’m not suggesting anything negative about the McCanns or that there’s anything wrong with all of the attention they’re getting — I hope it works and the little girl is found unharmed. It just seems like a lot of people are considering this case to be a lot more important than a lot of other missing-child cases (seems like it’s drawing a lot more coverage and resources than even Natalee Holloway did). Think about it for a second — would you know how to even get in direct contact with the people who run MySpace, let alone convince them to send a bulletin about your case to over 100 million people worldwide? I just wonder if there’s another dimension to this case that’s not being publicized (like a motive other than child molestation as everyone seems to be assuming). It could very well be that these are just two highly-sophisticated, highly-motivated, media-savvy parents whose ingenuity and perseverence have enabled them to draw unprecedented worldwide attention and assistance to the search for their missing child. Or maybe they hired a public relations firm right away to help them spread the word about their case. I’m just curious, and my curiosity is fueled by the fact that this abduction seems to have been more of a precision operation than I’d expect from a typical child molester. For example, Polly Klaas and Jessica Lundsford were snatched from their bedrooms too, but those seem to fall more into the category of tragic crimes of opportunity while this kidnapping seems to have involved almost professional-level observation, planning, and execution. These are just some of the questions that have been running through my mind as I’ve thought about this case, and as long as the little girl comes home safely, I don’t really care if I ever get the answers.
Polygamist preacher probably posing 5/12/07
A recent Utah court filing indicates that attorneys for Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and considered a prophet by his followers, will claim Jeffs is incompetent to stand trial on rape charges. Since last summer, Jeffs has been in a Utah jail awaiting trial, charged as an accomplice to rape for allegedly performing the arranged marriages of unwilling underage girls to adult male members of his church (in one case, a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin). Before his arrest, he was on the run for over a year and was even placed on the F.B.I.’s Ten Most Wanted List.
Not much information has been made public regarding Jeffs’ mental status, but as a psychologist with experience evaluating criminal defendants’ competency to stand trial, here’s my initial impression: It’s generally tough to be incompetent to stand trial, and in Jeffs’ case, I think it’s going to be extra tough. “Competent” in this context essentially means that the defendant is able to assist in his or her defense, which means Jeffs has to be able to understand his charges, understand what’s happening in the courtroom, know the identities and roles of his attorneys and other key participants in the proceedings, understand what could happen to him if he’s found guilty, communicate rationally with his attorneys, etc. I would be shocked if Jeffs were unable to do any of those things when, less than a year ago, he was still running an organization with thousands of members while eluding state and federal authorities. If his attorneys are in fact alleging that Jeffs is incompetent, I suspect strongly that he’s faking.
If Jeffs were nonetheless found incompetent, he would be sent to a psychiatric hospital where the staff would attempt to restore his competency through medication and psychotherapy. He would be returned to court to face trial if he regained competency, so in order to evade prosecution completely, he would have to appear incompetent (i.e. keep up the act) for a long time. I think that would be difficult even (and maybe especially) for a sophisticated sociopath like Jeffs. I predict that he will be found competent to stand trial this summer, but if he somehow convinces the court that he’s not, I think he’ll just be postponing the inevitable — his trial and likely conviction.
Hasselhoff’s “relapse”? (now I’m nauseous) 5/10/07
By now, many of you have seen the home video of actor David Hasselhoff, shot by his teenage daughter, in a falling-down drunken stupor in his Las Vegas residence. The daughter had traveled to Las Vegas from California to visit a parent but ended up having to be one when her father got so plastered that he was unable to even eat a hamburger. Now you may be thinking that you just read this post a couple of weeks ago when actor Alec Baldwin’s out-of-control voicemail to his teenage daughter was released to the media. While I’ve said on the air this week that Hasselhoff’s behavior was likewise emotionally and psychologically abusive, and while I believe similarly that this video should have been released to the judge in Hasselhoff’s divorce/custody case but not to the world, I want to focus on something else today.
Hasselhoff has since described his behavior in the video as a “relapse” of alcoholism. I HATE it when people use disease terminology like “relapse” in reference to addictive behaviors. I hate it because it puts people like Hasselhoff on the same level as people like White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, both of whom are currently having relapses of cancer. I think it’s insulting to people like Mr. Snow and Mrs. Edwards who have real diseases through no faults of their own. They didn’t go out and decide to ingest more cancer. They can’t choose at any time to stop having cancer.
I know, I know, addiction “treatment” people call alcoholism and other addictions “diseases,” but I don’t think that really helps anybody. Personally, I don’t think addiction “treatment” usually works very well at all, but it seems to me that the best “treatment” for addicts is to help them realize the power within themselves to choose their behavior regardless of what they want or how they’re feeling. Telling an alcoholic that he has a “disease” seems counter-productive to me because it downplays the role of personal choice both in starting and in ending his “disease” process. We’re back to the distinction between thoughts and behaviors that I’ve made repeatedly on the air and in previous posts — a person can have harmful (even “diseased”) thoughts, but that does not mean the person has to act on them. A “relapse” Hasselhoff? Now I’m nauseous.