Archive: December 2010

Pre-year-end run-down 12/29/10

Amid all the bad winter weather dominating the news in this last week of 2010, there have been a couple of new but fairly short-lived lawpsyc stories:

First, in NY, a woman’s corpse was found in a suitcase.  Video of the perpetrator dumping the suitcase led to a quick arrest.  The suspect reportedly has admitted killing the woman but is claiming — get this — self-defense.  Ok, so why didn’t he call the cops after the big fight?  He says she was a prostitute; he paid her for sex, and then she tried to grab more of his money before she left.  Not sure how the use of deadly force was necessary or justifiable there but the guy apparently has a long criminal history (as did the victim).

Meanwhile, in TX, a 12-year-old boy went missing on Christmas Eve.  He has the usual family chaos that we see in most of these cases, so of course authorities had to interview every ex-half-step-fill-in-the-blank to figure out what had happened to the boy, significantly delaying the issuance of an amber alert.  Someone in the family reportedly suggested that maybe he walked off because of ADHD.  Yeah, right.  The last person then known to have seen the boy was his stepfather.  Then, a child’s badly-burned body (apparently burned in one place and dumped in another) was found, and it looks like it’s probably this boy’s (although that hasn’t been publicly confirmed yet).  Shortly thereafter, TX authorities made an arrest — not the stepfather — a woman, reported to be a “close family friend.”  The authorities say, however, that they’re still interested in talking with an unspecified male suspect as well, so there very well may be a lot more to this story.

And as 2010 draws to a close, disturbing new statistics are coming out about American kids and prescription drugs.  It is now estimated that over 25% of all minors in the U.S.A. are on at least one long-term prescription drug.  Even worse, three of the leading four categories of drugs being prescribed to minors are psych meds:  psychostimulants (prescribed to treat symptoms of “ADHD,” a disorder which, in my opinion, is misdiagnosed far more often than it’s accurately diagnosed, meaning that most people on medication for it, in my opinion, probably don’t even have it), antidepressants, and antipsychotics (powerful tranquilizers prescribed primarily to treat symptoms of bipolar disorders, which, in my opinion, shouldn’t even be diagnosed in children).  (If you’re wondering, the most-prescribed category is asthma meds.)  These new stats confirm that the predictions I made in my 2009 WorldNetDaily column “A Perfect Storm” (http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=87729) are, sadly, coming true.

I’ll be back in 2011 with the new year’s lawpsyc news (this week’s appearance on Nancy Grace has been tentatively rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 3).  Until then, thanks for reading and watching me this year, and have a very happy new year!

Brian

Pre-holiday run-down 12/22/10

With the Christmas holiday upon us, here’s a pre-holiday run-down of this week’s Lawpsyc news:

Surprise, surprise, actress (shouldn’t that be “former actress” these days?) Lindsay Lohan has been accused of assaulting and battering an employee of the Betty Ford Center during drug “rehab.”  The facts are in dispute, but whatever they turn out to be, it kind of illustrates why I have so little faith that there’s much “rehab” going on in even the best of these places.  The employee has been fired, reportedly for violating Lohan’s patient privacy by talking publicly about the incident (talking to the police about it isn’t the problem — a health care provider doesn’t have to allow him/herself to be a crime victim in order to protect a patient’s privacy — it’s that she apparently also talked about it to TMZ).

Remember Amanda Knox, the American college student imprisoned in Italy after being convicted of participating in the murder of her British roommate while studying abroad there?  An Italian court has granted Knox’s request to review forensic evidence used in her case.  Knox claims she’s innocent and the evidence was improperly analyzed and/or tainted.  Even if some of it was, it’s unclear how much difference that made or will make in the outcome.  As you may recall, this is one of those cases in which the defendant told multiple stories about what had happened, and where there’s lying, there’s usually a reason (though not necessarily murder of course).  Stay tuned for more developments sometime in 2011 (the Italian court system takes even longer than ours to get anything done).

In Taiwan, there was a violent rampage incident at an elementary school, similar to incidents occurring at schools in China earlier this year.  This time, a man drove his car at high speed into the school, striking and injuring four students (thankfully none fatally), then poured gasoline on himself and attempted suicide by setting himself on fire in front of the kids (which of course did damage — psychological damage — even to the kids who weren’t touched by the impact of the car).  Bystanders put out the fire, and the man survived, so maybe we’ll eventually learn what was going on in his mind, but as usual, people are already noting how many “problems” he was having, apparently speculating that he was trying to draw attention to some personal plight that he was in.  So, as I’ve done in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre and other such incidents, let me just point out once again to anyone who might be inclined to pity this guy how profoundly selfish it for an individual to think that because he has problems, he’s somehow entitled to harm a bunch of innocent people.

Back in the U.S.A., there’s an apparent serial killer on the loose in Philadelphia.  Dubbed the “Philadelphia Strangler,” he’s described as a black male in his 20’s.  So far, three rapes and strangulation murders have been attributed to him, with three more rapes and attempted murders (those victims survived) possibly attributable to him.

The psychopath who wrote a book about how adults could lure children into situations in which the children could be molested and then teach the children to lie about it has been charged criminally in Florida.  Props to the Florida sheriff who recognized that this creep was actively endangering children in Florida and elsewhere and came up with the novel theory of charging him with obscenity based on the illustrations in the book (the sheriff ordered a copy of the book that was mailed to him in Florida, giving the sheriff jurisdiction to pursue the author).  The author says it’s entrapment, which I don’t think will fly.  Entrapment is when a defendant never would have committed a crime had law enforcement not encouraged him/her to do it.  This guy was clearly offering his product for sale to anyone anywhere, including Florida.  He even had it on Amazon.com until that company wised up to what it was!

And finally, study this:  With last week’s debut of “Scariest Movie Moments,” in which I explain the psychology behind various horror movies on the Chiller network, there’s new case-study research underway focusing on a woman whose amygdala (the brain’s “fear center”) was damaged and now experiences little or no fear of anything.  Her case illustrates how a life with no fear might actually be more dangerous than a life with it.  I have a feeling I may be talking more about this phenomenon in 2011!

In the meantime, thanks for reading and watching this year, and merry Christmas!

Mid-week check-in 12/15/10

Midway through another busy week, here are a few Lawpsyc developments since my last post:

A guy with a history of stalking and gun violence walked into a Florida school board meeting — his wife had been terminated as a teacher in that district months ago — spray-painted a “V” with a circle around it on the wall (like in the movie “V for Vendetta” — clever guy this guy), pulled out a handgun, and started shooting at board members.  Fortunately, 1) he was a terrible shot and didn’t hit anyone even from point-blank range, 2) he was distracted briefly by a heroic female school board member who swung her purse at him, and 3) a security guard took him down with a non-fatal shot.  The shooter then put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger, yet another guy who probably shouldn’t have been loose on the streets to do this — it would’ve been better for his own safety as well as everyone else’s.  He’s dead, and no on else was harmed, at least not physically.  The security guard who shot the guy is reportedly distraught about having had to do it.  Hopefully a mental health professional can help him get past his guilt about it.  No one but the shooter is responsible for his death, just like in the case of the CA guy who pulled a trigger-style hose nozzle on cops earlier in the week and was immediately shot and killed by the cops.  Those cops will probably be second-guessing themselves for some time, but they probably shouldn’t be — if they had hesitated, trying to identify precisely that metal object with a hole in the end of it being aimed at them, it could easily have been one of them dead today.

Meanwhile, in NY, four decomposed bodies were found on a remote Long Island beach.  They’re all adult females, but no i.d.’s yet, at least not publicized i.d.’s.  Cops are thinking there may be a serial killer on the loose, and for some undisclosed reason, they think there may be a common connection through Craigslist, which I guess means this may be “The Craigslist Killer II” (remember the first guy we dubbed the “Craigslist Killer” killed himself in jail — he was charged with luring women to hotel rooms with sex ads on the web site Craigslist, beating and robbing them and killing one of them).  The times of death will be crucial to the categorization of any killer in these Long Island deaths.  If all four victims were killed in the same violent rampage, the killer “serial” might be categorized as a “multiple” or “mass” murderer but probably not a “serial” murderer.  The “serial” designation usually implies a string of murders over time, which may fit if these four women were killed by the same individual(s) at different times.  It’s also not yet clear whether the beach is the crime scene or the victims were killed elsewhere and the beach was just a “dumping ground” for bodies.

A couple of high-profile suicides to tell you about: 1) the son of jailed financier Bernie Madoff, who had been under investigation since his infamous father “made off” with upwards of 50 billion of his investors’/victims’ dollars, and 2) the mayor of Springfield, IL (that state’s capital), who had been pursued by the IRS for unpaid taxes and was being scrutinized for his management of a cousin’s estate.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed in a shootout with drug/human traffickers on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico.  As I’ve said again and again, this situation is a national security threat, not to mention an absolute embarrassment to the U.S.A.  The Chinese figured out why and how to control a long border literally thousands of years ago using practically Stone-Age technology.  Even the Soviet Union, using a lot of cheap WWII-era technology, was able to control its borders — much longer ones than ours by the way — so well that relatively few people entered or exited without permission over four decades (and I don’t know if anyone ever shot at one of their border agents, but speaking of suicide, I’ll bet that would’ve been it).  When I’m in charge, we’re not going to consider it a success if we can keep Border Patrol deaths in the single digits and illegal entries below several million annually.  Instead, we’re going to have enough fire- and man-power in place that only a suicidal person would point a gun toward one of our agents, and we’re going to consider it a failure if one person a year — one — gets in here without permission.

That’s it for tonight, but I’ll be back on Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell on HLN tomorrow night (Thursday, December 16th, 7:00 p.m. eastern, 6:00 p.m. central) to discuss these and/or other stories!

Study this 12/11/10

It’s been a while since I’ve done a “study this” feature, where I write about the latest research findings with lawpsyc implications, so here’s one for you:  New research supposedly has confirmed a link between second-hand cigarette smoke and mental illness in children, and the findings are already being cited in support of legislatively banning parents from smoking around their kids.  Ok, but the problem is, I don’t think that the connection between the parents’ second-hand smoke and the kids’ mental illness is a causal one, and it sounds like the researchers aren’t sure of that either.  What do I mean?  I mean that stupid parents smoke cigarettes around their kids, and stupid parents also parent stupidly, and stupid parenting contributes to kids being screwed up in all kinds of ways including mentally, i.e. the general crappiness of the parenting is what I think is in play here rather than a single parental behavior to which the kids are exposed.  Otherwise, we would’ve seen a lot more childhood mental illness back when a lot more parents smoked in this country.  But the reverse is true.  As adults have smoked less and less, kids have been diagnosed with mental illness more and more.  And as I’ve said many times, I think that the majority of these kids, whose supposed “mental illnesses” are things like “ADHD” or “Conduct Disorder,” probably don’t really suffer from mental illness in the first place, not mental illness of their own anyway.  In most of these cases, I think that the kids probably really suffer from their parents’ “DWSTDMKD” (“Don’t-Wanna-Spend-Time-Disciplining-My-Kid-Disorder”), which reflects crappy parenting of a different type but is not mutually-exclusive with cigarette smoking (i.e. both can easily exist in the same parent).

Busy week wrap-up 12/10/10

It was a busy Lawpsyc week, and I was working on cases for most of it, so here’s a quick wrap-up of this week’s Lawpsyc news:

Brian Mitchell, that piece of human debris who kidnapped and raped Elizabeth Smart for nine months has been convicted!  Yes!  Jurors quickly rejected the insanity defense, just as I’ve been saying for years that they should have.  This guy may be delusional, but that doesn’t mean he’s not also a cold, calculating, sadistic, wantonly-destructive, willfully-violent, perverted psychopath.  (By the way, I know some of you don’t like the term “human debris” because you believe that God doesn’t make debris — I agree, God doesn’t make debris, people do, and just as they can make debris by discarding various inanimate objects, they can discard the goodness that they started out with in life and thereby turn themselves into debris.  Mitchell’s human debris of his own making.)  Mitchell should, and likely will, spend the rest of his life in prison.  It was great to see Elizabeth Smart project such a sense of empowerment and of having received justice when she exited the courtroom this afternoon.  Another good outcome in a child-abduction case:  after a Virginia mother was found murdered and her 12-year-old daughter missing, the girl has been found alive with the mother’s boyfriend who’s in custody and suspected of both the mother’s murder and the girl’s kidnapping.

Two very young males are in big trouble this week.  One’s a 14-year-old born in the U.S.A. who allegedly committed serial murder for a Mexican drug cartel and even beheaded some of his victims.  The other’s a Dutch 16-year-old who hacked several major corporate web sites in protest of the international effort to shut down “Wikileaks,” a web site that posts confidential government and corporate information obtained from leakers and computer hackers.  People are jumping to the conclusion that the 14-year-old is a real-life “Michael Myers” (from the movie “Halloween,” in which a young child stabs his older sister to death, is institutionalized, escapes, and commits serial murder).  I’m cautioning people to wait for the full story on this one.  It sounds like there may have been an element of duress involved here — i.e. like the kid may have committed these murders and brought the heads of some victims back to cartel leaders under the threat that they’d kill his family if he didn’t and perhaps under the influence of involuntary intoxication.  It’s too early to know the extent to which such factors might reduce the appearance of psychopathy in this kid and/or his criminal responsibility for the murders (duress and involuntary intoxication, like insanity, can be defenses) — perhaps not at all — so his will be a fascinating case to watch.  The 16-year-olds case just illustrates, as I’ve said in many other cases, how a kid that young absolutely can have adult-level culpability for crimes.  It’d be tough to argue that a brain working well enough to break into the web sites of major corporations and inflict intentional damage wasn’t working well enough to know exactly what it was doing and that the acts were crimes.

“Students” in the U.K. continued to violently protest college tuition hikes in that country, as if their fellow citizens owe them college educations.  In fact, anyone who would become violent when told that he/she would be expected to contribute more to his/her own education is particularly undeserving of any educational assistance whatsoever and quite possibly too stupid to even make good use of such assistance.  It they put me in charge over there, I’d announce that everyone convicted of involvement in the violence would be instantly ineligible for government educational assistance for the rest of their lives.  I’ll bet that would civilize/intellectualize the debate fairly quickly.

Here in the U.S.A., an agreement in principle (though not yet in practice) has been reached to keep income tax rates where they are for at least the next two years.  As I’ve said during the debate over this, the psychological impact should be helpful to the economy because it reduces short-term uncertainty, i.e. it allows business owners to start making hires and other transactions with a reasonable idea of what the math involved looks like.  Meanwhile, the “Dream Act,” which would have allowed illegal aliens to remain in the U.S.A. and become citizens, even if they commit crimes, as long as they either enroll in college or serve in the military, has failed to pass Congress, at least for now.  The names of these bills often have psychological underpinnings — who wants to be against the “Dream Act”?  Ok, sure, we’re all for people making their dreams of better lives come true, but if someone’s “dream” involves living in this country, then I think it’s more than reasonable to expect that they do so totally lawfully (yes, that means no d.u.i., no pot smoking, no shoplifting, no felonies, no misdemeanors, nothing).

In missing-persons news, it’s not looking like foul play was involved in the disappearance of an Illinois mother of four who went missing from the scene of an auto accident in which her husband was killed.  Based on footprints and a single woman’s slipper found at the scene, it’s looking like she tried to walk for help in a freezing, snow-covered, rural area and probably, sadly, succumbed to injuries somewhere in the vicinity before finding anyone.  A search for her continues.  Those three Michigan boys whose father said he gave them to an apparently-nonexistent girlfriend before allegedly trying to commit suicide are still missing.  Obviously it doesn’t look good for them.  Sadly, there’s a similar case to that one unfolding out of Alabama.  Two little kids, a brother and sister, are suspected of being severely physically abused, tortured really, and murdered by their father and stepmother, both of whom are in custody.  The boy’s body has been found, and cops continue to search for the sister.  As we’ve seen in the Zahra Baker case, the two adults are already pointing fingers at each other, apparently claiming to have just been involved in burying the boy after the other one caused the death.  Right.  If that’s their story, they’re about as believable as Wesley Snipes and Rep. Charles Rangel (read on).

And finally, in celebrity lawpsyc news, a well-known swimsuit designer was found dead in a NY hotel, fully clothed, in a bathtub, a day after she reportedly had broken up with a boyfriend.  Sounds like we know where this investigation is headed, at least what/who step 1 is.  Actor Wesley Snipes entered prison to start serving a three-year sentence for tax crimes, appearing on Larry King Live the night before to basically deny responsibility for doing anything wrong.  According to Snipes, it was all just a big misunderstanding, just like Rep. Charles Rangel said on The O’Reilly Factor when discussing his tax problems, for which he has been censured by the House of Representatives.  Both are guilty as hell, and the only thing wrong with this picture is that Snipes’ face has bars in front of it and Rangel’s doesn’t.  Teen singer Miley Cyrus further eroded her innocent image by smoking from a water pipe in a new online video.  While the device can be and often is drug paraphernalia, there’s apparently no crime involved because the substance in it in the video supposedly was something legal.  And ballistic analysis has concluded that the gun used in the murder of prominent Hollywood publicist Ronnie Chasen is the same gun that the suspect used to kill himself as cops closed in on him last week.  At this point, the cops are saying they don’t think there are other suspects involved, i.e. they don’t think the gunman was paid to kill Chasen.  He had said he was paid, but the cops are saying it may have just been a robbery attempt involving no one but him and the victim.  We may never know, but I still don’t think it’s case-closed just yet (and maybe the cops don’t either — they may be trying to lull a co-conspirator into a false sense of complacency).  I mean, how often do you hear of a robbery in which the robber walks out into a street with a gun, demands money or property or a car from a driver, then shoots the driver five times and leaves the scene apparently with nothing?

Publicist’s murder getting even more mysterious 12/4/10

Beverly Hills police appear to agree with me that the recent murder of a prominent Hollywood publicist looks like the work of an experienced, probably paid, killer.  They’re cautioning us, however, that there’s a chance that the person of interest who killed himself as they closed in on him earlier in the week might not be the killer.  Although he apparently told at least one neighbor that he assassinated the publicist for $10,000, he apparently also had a warrant out for his arrest in connection with a separate, misdemeanor case.  The cops apparently think there’s a chance that he thought they were coming to arrest him for that and killed himself just because he was afraid he was headed back to prison (he had a long rap sheet and reportedly had told friends that he’d never go back to prison).  It’s tough for most people to imagine a guy bragging about being a killer when he wasn’t, but I guess it’s possible that in his circle of friends, that might’ve been seen as some kind of status enhancement.  As they learn more about this guy, it sounds like the cops may now be wondering whether he was sophisticated enough to have carried out a professional hit.  By the way, Geraldo Rivera, who’s been reporting on this case also, still believes that it was a random, road-rage killing.  It’s definitely a strange and mysterious case, so stay tuned.

You heard it here first! 12/2/10

Well, not exactly here, but on TV if you watched Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell on the night before Thanksgiving.  I was asked to comment on the murder of a prominent Hollywood publicist that had occurred several days before.  The woman was shot while driving home from a movie premiere at night, but at the time, there were no immediate suspects and people were speculating that it could’ve been random, like a road-rage shooting or a gang initiation.  I said no, that it was a hit (not in the song/movie sense of the word, in the contract murder sense of the word), precisely because of factors like the absence of witnesses, the manner of death (several fairly accurately-placed hollow-point 9mm or 38-caliber rounds to the torso), etc.  I contrasted it to another shooting that we discussed that night that appeared much less professional and much more rage-driven (in that one, a man walked up to the victim outside of the victim’s son’s daycare center in broad daylight and fired several rounds at point-blank range before speeding away in a van, all in front of multiple witnesses who could describe both the shooter and the vehicle — not very “professional”-looking as murders go).  Well, a week later, the cops in Beverly Hills tracked down a person of interest, an apparent hit-man who had bragged to neighbors about the “big job” (or something to that effect) that he had just done.  When they showed up at his apartment building to question him, he started shooting again, this time targeting himself though.  He’s dead.  (And surprise, surprise, he’d been in prison for serious crimes not once but a couple of different times before, yet the folks in California apparently thought it was a good idea to let him back out on the streets and give him a third strike.  Yes, I have the benefits of hindsight and a Ph.D. in psychology, but neither of those were necessary to see how stupid that gamble was.  Nevertheless, I guarantee you that we took that same gamble literally thousands of times today alone across the USA, letting people whom we know to be violent criminals back out on the streets with the rest of us.  Yes, I know, we’re giving them “another chance.”  Right, another chance to hurt us.  That’s insane.)  Assuming this guy was the trigger man, the question remains tonight, who hired him?  Cops think they know, and it reportedly has something to do with a business deal gone bad, but as they should, they’re playing it close to the vest, so stay tuned.

In other news, Elizabeth Smart apparently had to leave the courtroom yesterday as a mental-health expert testified that the man who kidnapped and raped her over a nine-month period was delusional at the time (and is now).  She returned to the courtroom after a brief absence.  When the expert was done testifying, he apparently tried to say something to Smart, and she reportedly rebuffed that effort in no uncertain terms.  If the expert really believes that Mitchell couldn’t have known what he was doing or that it was wrong, then I’m sure it was uncomfortable to say that in front of Smart, but as I’ve said, it’s tough for me to imagine how an expert who knows what he’s doing can really believe that, just based on what we all know about what happened and how hard Mitchell tried to conceal Smart’s identity and evade capture during that time — I’ll reiterate in fairness to the witness that I of course have not examined Mitchell.  While it may have been empowering for Smart to finally have her “day in court” earlier in the trial, listening to the defense argue that Mitchell shouldn’t be held responsible for what he did to her is obviously and understandably difficult for her, and I think everyone (except the defendant), regardless of whether they’re inclined to buy the insanity argument, can probably sympathize with her there.  By the way, Mitchell had to be removed from the courtroom again, not for “collapsing,” this time for singing Christmas carols.  I’ve seen truly crazy defendants, and although I haven’t examined this creep, once again, I’d bet heavily that these courtroom disturbances are an act.  Closing arguments are expected early next week, so stay tuned.

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