Archive: January 2010

Study this 1/31/10

Study this:  As mental health parity legislation takes effect, mandating equal coverage of mental and physical health conditions under many employer-provided health insurance plans, a new study shows that American employees remain more reluctant to seek mental health treatment than physical health treatment.  Participants in the study cited concerns that they would be stigmatized and that their careers would be damaged if their employers knew that they were receiving mental health care.  Only 40% said that they thought their employers would be supportive of them seeking mental health treatment.  Respectively 73% and 76% said they thought it would hurt their careers to seek alcoholism or drug-addiction treatment through an employer-provided plan.  While the addiction results are relatively easy to understand, 62% of participants said they thought it would hurt their careers to seek treatment for depression.  By comparison, 54% and 55% respectively said they thought it would hurt their careers to seek treatment for heart disease or diabetes.

Lawpsyc updates 1/31/10

Here are a few updates on lawpsyc developments that happened while I was covering the Roeder trial

Casey Anthony — pled guilty to charges unrelated to the murder charge that she faces in connection with the death of her daughter, writing fraudulent checks, and essentially was sentenced to time served plus a year of probation.

Drew Peterson — is in the midst of a pre-trial hearing to determine what evidence, certain statements particularly, can and cannot be presented at his trial for the murder of his most-recent wife, Stacy.

Michael Jackson — ‘s doctor looks like he’s about to be charged with involuntary manslaughter any minute now in connection with his administration of the surgical-strength sedative Propofol to help Jackson sleep.

Former senator John Edwards & pro-golfer Tiger Woods — both high-profile cheaters and creeps, may be switching places so-to-speak.  It had looked like the Edwardses weren’t getting divorced and the Woodses were, but now it looks like the Edwardses are and the Woodses are not.  Who cares (except for the sake of the children involved)?  (By the way, though, about the Edwards case — there’s a new book out by a former Edwards staffer who claims that Edwards asked him to pretend publicly to be the father of Edwards’ mistress’ baby.  In that book, the staffer, reportedly — I haven’t read it, alleges that this was neither Edwards’ first extramarital affair nor the first affair of which Mrs. Edwards was aware.  Just pointing out that you heard that here first, back when everyone else was lamenting what a completely-oblivious victim Mrs. Edwards was.)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and t.v. host Chris Matthews — both made incredibly-stupid comments about the President’s race (Reid noted that Obama didn’t speak in “negro dialect” — it was a while ago but just recently became public knowledge — and Matthews noted, just days after we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, that he “forgot he [Obama] was black” during the State of the Union speech).  Now I know that both of these guys are Obama supporters and probably didn’t mean to offend anybody, but psychologically-speaking, I think it’s interesting how guys like these accuse people who don’t support Obama’s policies of racial bias when it’s these guys who appear to have the President’s race on their minds.

Metallica mystery partially solved (and two other unsolved mysteries) 1/30/10

Remember back in October when we told you on Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell about a Virginia Tech coed who disappeared from a Metallica concert?  Sadly, we know now where she went — her remains have been found by a farmer in a rural area.  Who put her there remains a mystery — so far, there appear to be no suspects.

And remember the case of the baby whose mother left Arizona with him, stopped in Texas, where she had tried to arrange a secret adoption to prevent the baby’s father from ever seeing him again, then was caught in Florida without the child, and the prospective adoptive parents didn’t have the child either?  (See my post dated 1/8/10.)  Well, authorities in Texas are now searching a landfill for the baby’s remains.  I still hope, though, that the mother did pass him off to some other adult(s) and that he’s still alive and well somewhere.

And finally, while we’re on the subject of missing persons whom I’ve covered recently, the Utah mom who went missing while her husband allegedly took his two small children on a suspicious, last-minute, midnight “camping trip” on a frigid Sunday night still has not been found.

Violence erupting in Haiti 1/29/10

Amid sad reports of violence erupting in various places around earthquake-ravaged Haiti, my post dated 1/16/10 contains psychological analysis of why that was likely, just given the dire circumstances of the situation.  Add to that mix some opportunistic individuals whose preferences and tendencies are to behave in antisocial ways even under normal circumstances, and you’ve got a dangerous recipe for violence (this is one I’d love to have been wrong about).

Roeder trial and an era end in Kansas 1/29/10

Well, after six days and hundreds of miles on the road between Lawrence and Wichita, the Roeder trial, and an era, have come to an end here in Kansas.  For the first four days, the prosecution painstakingly connected the evidentiary dots between Roeder the shooting of abortion doctor Tiller.  Some viewers noted that the prosecution seemed to be presenting the case as if there had been a serious question as to who pulled the trigger and asked why.  I explained that there were two big reasons:  1) unless/until Roeder confessed, the prosecution had the burden of proving each and every element of the crime, and 2) the prosecution anticipated the “imperfect-self-defense” argument from Roeder (see my post from the eve of the trial), and presenting the “three p’s” — planning, preparation, and practice — went a long way toward preempting it.  Though not impossible, it’s tough to argue that you believed you had to act right then to prevent imminent harm when you’ve been planning, preparing, and practicing your actions for months, and all the while, the victim was doing the same thing day in and day out.

As expected, Roeder then took the stand and testified in his own defense that he shot Tiller but that he honestly believed at the time that his actions were legally justified — which in Kansas means he had to believe:  1) that deadly force was necessary, 2) to defend an innocent third party, 3) from imminent, and 4) unlawful harm — even though he now realizes they weren’t.  As I explained prior to the trial, it was easy to understand how Roeder could’ve believed just one of those four elements, that an unborn baby was an innocent third party, but it was difficult (though again, theoretically possible) to understand how he could’ve believed the other three elements:  that harm to a baby was imminent while Tiller was at church, that the harm was unlawful when efforts to prosecute and convict Tiller for various alleged violations of Kansas law had failed repeatedly, and that deadly force was necessary to prevent the harm.

My three big questions for Roeder about his thought process before the shooting would’ve been: 1) “Where in the church was the baby that you thought Tiller was about to abort?” 2) “After following the prior litigation involving Tiller as closely as you testified you did, how did you still believe that his practice violated Kansas law,” and 3) “If you honestly believed that Tiller’s practice violated Kansas law, why didn’t you call the police and report him instead of shooting him.”  The prosecution did a fairly good job of covering that same ground, and after listening to Roeder’s answers, the judge ruled that the jury could not consider the imperfect-self-defense argument and find Roeder guilty of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, essentially concluding that there was no way a reasonable jury could find that Roeder honestly believed harm to an unborn baby was both imminent and unlawful at the time he shot Tiller.

I think that the judge’s ruling was correct, but I also think that Roeder’s behavior after the shooting is what really reveals his true belief, at the time, about the legal justification of his actions.  My big question for Roeder about his thought process after the shooting would’ve been:  “If you thought you were legally justified in shooting Tiller to save the life of an innocent unborn baby who was about to be aborted unlawfully, then why did you flee the scene (instead of waiting around for people to congratulate you)?”  The fact that he fled, to me, is all that’s needed to conclude that he had “consciousness of guilt” — that he knew, regardless of his personal beliefs, that the State of Kansas would not consider his actions to have been justified.  (And, he allegedly committed additional crimes by pointing his gun at churchgoers who chased him out of the church.)  Although it had been reported that Roeder had a history of mental illness, he did not put on any evidence of that (i.e. call an expert to testify that mental illness affected his ability to think reasonably at the time he shot Tiller).  His counsel tried to call former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline as a witness to explain how one could still believe that Tiller’s practice violated Kansas law in spite of repeated failures to prosecute him successfully, but the judge barred that testimony (as irrelevant — it didn’t matter what Kline ever believed, only what Roeder believed at the time he shot Tiller).

There were some pro-life protesters outside the courthouse throughout the trial, but they didn’t really seem to influence anything.  The jury selection was painstaking in its effort to make sure jurors could separate their emotions about abortion from their application of the law in the case, plus the judge admonished jurors to avoid any and all media coverage of the trial and required Roeder to confine his testimony to his thought process regarding the shooting of Tiller (i.e. didn’t let Roeder turn the trial into a forum for oratory on the legality of abortion in general).

As I said on the air on Wednesday, one of the principle tenets of the “social contracts” under which we all live, our federal and state constitutions, is that we will respect the “rule of law” — that we’ll make the law as a group and live by the law as individuals even if we disagree with it.  In a civilized society, that’s essential — we can’t have individuals free to run around enforcing the law that they wish we had made, and if someone decides to do so, then that person has to be held accountable under the law that we did make.  (As you may know, I personally believe that the law in Kansas and across the country is logically incorrect and inconsistent on the issue of abortion, but the civilized way to address that is not to violate the law oneself, but to persuade one’s fellow citizens to change it.)  Roeder chose to violate existing law, and now he’s being held accountable under that law, as he should be.

The jury didn’t take long (less than an hour) to find Roeder guilty as charged of first-degree murder (and two counts of aggravated assault for pointing his gun at two members of Tiller’s congregation as he fled).  He won’t face the death penalty because the murder didn’t fall into a narrow set of categories that classify murders in Kansas as “capital” (e.g. there weren’t multiple victims, no child victim, no pecuniary motive, no sex crime involved…).  He will, however get a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years, and that 25 years may be extended to 50 years if the prosecution is successful in arguing for that “hard 50” at Roeder’s sentencing hearing, set for March 9 (that’s where we may see the defense try to introduce Roeder’s mental health history as “mitigating” evidence).

The sentencing and the appeal that will automatically be filed (in which the defense will argue that Kline should’ve been allowed to testify and that the jury should’ve been allowed to consider the lesser charge — I don’t think those arguments are going to fly) will really just be footnotes, though, to the final chapter in a long, sad saga here in Kansas.  The Tiller era, spanning over three decades, saw lives destroyed (including his own) and millions of dollars spent and political careers ruined on both sides (including Kline’s and his successor, Paul Morrison’s — notably, former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius narrowly escaped with her career intact by joining the Obama Administration as Secretary of Health and Human Services last year).  So, Tiller’s gone; Roeder’s effectively gone; and Kansas, for now, is no longer the late-term abortion capital of the United States.  But while the political landscape of this state has changed dramatically (without Tiller’s substantial contributions to pro-choice politicians), efforts to tighten up the laws that allowed it to become the country’s late-term abortion capital seem to have died along with their impetus, so a sad sequel remains possible.

Wrapping up the week 1/22/10

Testimony has begun in the Roeder trial, slightly earlier than expected.  Sounds like today’s testimony is mainly going to be witnesses describing what happened at the scene of the shooting.

Remember the “sexting” case that we told you about on HLN last year — the one in which about 20 junior-high/high-school girls were given the chance to get diversion instead of facing criminal charges for trafficking in child porn by attending a class on responsible Internet use, and the parents of three of the girls unbelievably objected to that, saying that their kids did nothing wrong in the first place?  Well, a federal appeals court is now deciding whether those girls could legitimately be charged with crimes under the circumstances.  I don’t want to see teenage girls labeled sex offenders because they were stupid with their cell phones, but I think that the threat of criminal charges to coerce participation in the diversion program was reasonable, and I think these parents are idiots (who obviously aren’t teaching their kids responsible Internet use, or probably responsibility in much of anything, so somebody obviously needs to).

Finally, study this:  A new study says that blonde women are more aggressive in competitive situations because they’re used to getting what they want and become more upset when it looks like they’re not going to get it.  Watch out, brunettes!

Roeder trial getting underway 1/21/10

The murder trial of Scott Roeder is getting underway here in Kansas.  Jury selection is ongoing, and testimony should begin next week.  Roeder is charged with murdering abortion doctor George Tiller last year.  Roeder’s lawyers plan to argue that it’s a case of “imperfect self-defense” which warrants a conviction of manslaughter rather than murder.  Here’s the Lawpsyc low-down on that:  In Kansas, as in most places, you’re allowed to use force to defend not just yourself but also to defend another person from a physical assault.  The “defender” has to reasonably believe, however, that the threat of harm to the “victim” is both imminent and grave (generally serious bodily injury or death), and the force used against the “assailant” has to be reasonable (in proportion to the threat).  In addition, the “assailant’s” conduct has to be unlawful, and the “victim’s” conduct has to be lawful (i.e. you can’t kill the executioner at a lawful execution and successfully claim that you’re innocent of any crime because you were defending the condemned convict, nor can you generally use force to defend someone who initiates a fight unlawfully and then starts losing it).  If you use force to defend yourself or someone else, and you truly believed that it was justified under the circumstances (i.e. you thought that the “assailant” was on the verge of doing unlawful and grave bodily harm to an innocent “victim”), and it turns out that you were mistaken, then it becomes a case of imperfect self-defense (which encompasses defense of another person).  The question for the jury then is whether your beliefs and the actions that you took based on those beliefs were reasonable (i.e. whether a reasonable person in your position would’ve done the same thing).  If so, then in theory, you may be found not-guilty, i.e. a tragic mistake was made, but no crime was committed.  If not though — if your beliefs and/or actions are deemed to have been honest but unreasonable — then you may be found guilty, but of a lesser crime, generally a crime rooted in negligence, like manslaughter, rather than a crime of intent, like murder.  So, Roeder’s attorneys are expected to admit that he shot Tiller to death while honestly-but-unreasonably believing that it was necessary to protect the lives of unborn babies (unreasonably because harm wasn’t imminent — Tiller was at church at the time — and because abortion is lawful in Kansas, at least prior to the 22nd week of pregnancy), and that, therefore, Roeder should be convicted of manslaughter rather than murder.  Prosecutors have argued that this defense cannot possibly be supported by the evidence and that, therefore, the jury should not even be allowed to hear it.  So far, the judge has refused to bar the imperfect self-defense argument, electing to hear the evidence before ruling on whether the jury will be allowed to consider it.  The case may turn, then, on Roeder’s mental state at the time of the shooting, which is why I’m tentatively scheduled to join In Session‘s coverage of the trial on HLN, live from Wichita, KS on Wed., Jan. 27!  (I’ll post details, dates, times, etc. on myFacebook “fan” page as I learn them.)

In other news:

Remember the 8-year-old boy who shot and killed his father and his father’s friend in Arizona a year or so ago?  Well, now a 13-year-old boy has allegedly shot his father to death in Wisconsin.  The boy is in juvenile custody, and a mental evaluation has been ordered.  He reportedly has been in a lot of trouble at school and was recently expelled.  Relatives reportedly say he’s autistic.  More to follow on this one for sure.

And remember Sen. Edwards and the baby that wasn’t his?  Well apparently now it is his.  He’s reportedly admitting it.  Surprise, surprise.  You heard it here the night the story first went public, like 18 months ago!

Sex addiction? Really? 1/21/10

So, apparently Tiger Woods is not responsible for his behavior with various women other than his wife after all.  Why, you ask?  Because he allegedly has a disease.  What’s the disease?  “Sex addiction.”  That’s a disease, right?  And no one who has a disease can be expected to fight it successfully, right?  And because Woods is reportedly now in “treatment” for it, we all have to applaud his “courage” and support his “recovery,” right?  OK, before I throw up, “addiction” remains the favorite responsibility-evading excuse for public figures who get caught behaving badly, when in reality, it excuses nothing.  As I said back on 12/15/09 when some in the media first started buying into the possibility that Woods was a “victim” of a disease process beyond his control, wanting to do something so badly that you’re willing to hurt your family to do it may mean you’re a messed-up individual psychologically, but it still doesn’t mean you can’t resist doing the behavior.  It mostly just means that you’re selfish enough to put your wants above your family’s needs.

Possible medical treatment available in Haiti 1/19/10

I doubt that those of you who went to Haiti to cover the earthquake aftermath and/or to participate in relief efforts have the time/interest/ability to be online (certainly not on Facebook or MySpace or my web site) right now, but because links to my blog posts are cross-posted to Twitter, I’m passing on this piece of information that I got from my colleague and friend CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom.  Apparently, the Sacre Coeur Hospital in Milot, 75 miles north of Port-au-Prince, had available beds and staff as of Tuesday morning, which, for those of you watching events in Haiti unfold from here in the U.S., highlights the difficulties in getting both information and people around the devastated island nation right now.

2 more mass shootings 1/19/10

Sadly, two more weeks into 2010 and two more mass shootings to report:

The first happened in Texas — five members of a family including one child shot to death in the family home.  A relative is in custody.  He was cornered and held at gunpoint by a neighbor until cops could arrive

The second happened in Virginia — eight people, shot at a rural home, apparently including the wife or ex-wife and child of the shooter, before the shooter committed what appears to have been “suicide by cop” (fled the scene but then shot at a police helicopter that was searching for him and shot at cops after he was surrounded in a wooded area)

Motives are still sketchy, but both cases look similar to the Merhige case in Florida (the “Thanksgiving dinner massacre”) in that familial discord of some kind seems to have been a precipitating factor.  As usual, I’ll predict that both the Texas and Virginia shooters will turn out to have violent histories that probably should’ve had them off the streets long before this week, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Wrapping up a tragic week 1/16/10

So the earthquake in Haiti pretty much eclipsed all other news this week, and rightly so.  It’s a tragedy of historic proportions.  Psychologically speaking, it’s a phenomenon not unlike 9/11 or Katrina in that people there in Haiti and even people watching from afar will be experiencing a range of negative emotions related to it.  There in Haiti, a combination of grief (over the loss of life), senses of helplessness and hopelessness (due to injuries and losses), and anxiety (over the uncertainty of peoples’ whereabouts and survival, the possibility of a recurrence, the loss of an infrastructure through which basic survival needs could be met, etc.) will manifest in acute stress reactions in many people.  So far, incidents of violence among survivors appear to be relatively minimal, but if senses of helplessness and hopelessness pervade the population, suffering compounded by frustration and fear may cause tensions to escalate, resulting in a “mob mentality” and riot behavior.  Such behavior is often fueled by diffusion of responsibility (or “deindividuation,” in which people acting collectively feel less personal responsibility for their actions than they would if acting alone) and anonymity (the difficulty/unlikelihood of a single individual being identified and held accountable for actions undertaken as part of a mob).  If acute stress reactions persist long enough, they may evolve into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in which people’s emotional states remain as they were at the time of the trauma even long after the trauma conditions have subsided.  People watching from afar will feel some of the same things, to lesser degrees, vicariously/empathically.  For some on the scene (there’s no one-size-fits-all here), organizing their memories and thoughts about their experiences by relating those experiences to one another and to relief workers may be helpful buffers against debilitating stress reactions, and for those who are able, participating in rescue/relief efforts can help them regain stress-reducing senses of control over their circumstances and hope (that they can get through this and that things can get better).  For those who’ve sustained serious injuries, interestingly, a study of battlefield injuries by the U.S. military recently found that soldiers who received morphine after sustaining combat injuries had reduced likelihoods of developing PTSD as a result of their injuries (not sure what the explanation for that is, but it may be something to do with the effects of morphine on the brain in the immediate aftermath of the trauma).  For those watching developments in Haiti at a distance, supporting relief efforts in some way can help reduce their sense of helplessness and, once again, restore their sense that we can control our world in significant ways and have some predictably-positive impacts on it despite the possibility/reality that disasters will occur.  As always, I’m proud to see the United States of America rush to the aid of a neighbor in need, and I’m proud of the men and women who are carrying out that mission of mercy on behalf of the rest of us.

In other news this week, former U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter is in trouble…again (this apparently isn’t the first time, although past charges were either never filed or dismissed)…for allegedly having sexually-explicit contact with an underage girl on the Internet.  Some in the media are using the word “pedophile,” and while I’m not all that concerned about Ritter’s portrayal under these circumstances, technically-speaking, it’s probably not pedophilia — that’s when an adult is attracted to pre-pubescent kids, kids who haven’t developed secondary sex characteristics, and the girl involved reportedly is 15 years old — but it does sound like he could have a “paraphilia,” a sexual obsession/compulsion/fetish that is problematic in some way (in this case because it involves sexual attraction on which acting would be criminal).  Whether he does or doesn’t, however, neither pedophilia nor a paraphilia would force him to do anything.  Whether or not you agreed with his analysis of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, to have accomplished what Ritter’s accomplished in his career, one has to have a relatively-high degree of intelligence and behavioral control.  I’m reminded here of past cases involving malignantly-narcissistic politicians who’ve felt entitled and chosen to satisfy twisted desires regardless of risks to themselves and others.

“Heartbreak-related depression,” Jackson/Tequila/Tyson news, a spanking study, & crazy crimes 1/8/10

Here’s a rundown of my first full week back on the cases:

Celebrity news:

The daughter of Billy Joel, an aspiring musician herself, is speaking out about her December overdose of homeopathic pills.  She says it was brought on by a breakup and “heartbreak-related depression.”  Now, I don’t know that we need to add “heartbreak-related depression” to the DSM (diagnostic manual of mental disorders), but I can confirm from clinical and first-hand experience that the grief associated with breakups can be profound, so I applaud Ms. Joel for her plan to speak about it to young people in 2010.

It looks like criminal charges are imminent against the physician who prescribed a surgical-strength sedative to Michael Jackson.  Expect involuntary manslaughter and probably some lesser charges.

Tila Tequila’s back in the news — her “fiance,” an heiress to the Johnson & Johnson fortune was found dead at her (Ms. Johnson’s) California home, an apparent drug overdose, and there’s since been a series of bizarre “tweets” from the ever-classy Ms. Tequila disavowing any knowledge that Ms. Johnson was in danger.

Mike Tyson’s back in the news as well, another run-in with a photographer in an airport, no charges filed against either party yet.  At this point, it’s sad what a train wreck this guy’s life is.

Study this:

A new study of spanking found that spanking does not necessarily turn kids neurotic or psychopathic and that many kids who were spanked have grown up to be highly-functional adults.  Now, the group studied wasn’t that large, and the methodology doesn’t sound like it was that great, and I’m not advocating spanking as a disciplinary tactic of first resort, and I certainly never condone violent spanking (spanking that causes more than mild discomfort), BUT, it does on some level seem consistent with what’s occurred to me (and I think to many people who got the occasional spanking and have lived fairly successful lives) whenever previous studies have linked spanking to every horrible outcome from suicide to serial homicide!

Major case developments:

A body found wrapped in plastic in a remote area of Utah is not the body of the missing mother of two who supposedly “disappeared” while her husband took their small kids “camping” in the middle of the night.  This body belongs to an as-yet-unidentified Hispanic male.

Before 2010 was even a full week old, we had a mass shooting — disgruntled former employee shooting eight former co-workers at a St. Louis factory, killing three, before turning the gun on himself.  Apparently, he was upset about his retirement benefits (second time we’ve heard that in a week — the Las Vegas courthouse shooter apparently had the same motive)

An Arizona baby is missing, his mother is under arrest, and another couple have been named “persons of interest” in the baby’s disappearance.  Confused?  Apparently the mother didn’t want the baby’s father to have any custodial time with the baby.  So, she arranged to give the baby up for adoption to the couple, but then she sent a text message to the baby’s father telling him that she’d killed the baby.  Cops caught up with the mother in Florida and took her into custody, but the baby wasn’t with her.  She’s since said that she gave the baby away in Texas.  The couple, who are from Arizona, have spoken openly to the media and volunteered to take polygraph tests to prove that they never received the child and don’t know where he is (they sound innocent to me, but my data’s limited to soundbytes, so I certainly could be wrong).  Nevertheless, cops have indicated that the couple may know more than they’ve told about what the mother’s plans were.  On the bright side though, cops also say there are unspecified “indications” that the child’s probably still alive.  Still confused?  Sorry, stay tuned, and I’ll try to sort it out and get back to you.

The deceased body of a Playboy video model was found on fire in a Miami dumpster.  Her boyfriend has been questioned by cops and apparently has been cooperative at this point, but the couple did reportedly argue on the night she was reported missing.  Could be innocent, could be another Ryan Jenkins, stay tuned.

And finally tonight, this is “McNuts”:

A woman right here in the Kansas City area apparently was pretty unhappy with her McDonald’s burger — so unhappy that she threw a violent tantrum in which she did thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to the restaurant before fleeing the scene.  No word on whether she got fries with that, but there’s reportedly video surveillance footage that hopefully will lead to her arrest before she tears up another restaurant — one that I might actually be in at the time!

Have a great weekend, see you back here and on the tube next week!

Catching up 1/6/10

I’m back in Kansas and back online and hoping that everyone had great holidays.  Happy New Year!  Here’s a quick rundown of developments in various cases that occurred while I was on hiatus:

The Florida man who allegedly murdered several family members at Thanksgiving dinner and fled the scene was captured, still in Florida, hiding out in a motel in the Keys.  Maybe now we’ll find out what motivated him.

Actor Charlie Sheen allegedly assaulted his wife on Christmas.  According to her, he held a knife to throat and threatened to have her killed.  She reportedly was drunk at the time, however.  So, when I came on Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell via satellite early the following week to discuss the case, I said I’m most concerned about the couple’s small children.  As a child custody expert, it doesn’t sound like either parent is parent-of-the-year in the Sheen household.  Shocking, I know.  (By the way, some in the media compared Sheen’s troubles to those of golfer Tiger Woods and questioned why the public didn’t seem as troubled by Sheen’s alleged behavior.  That’s easy:  Woods let people down.  Sheen didn’t.  People didn’t really expect better from Sheen, so his alleged behavior was less of a disappointment to people.)

A Delaware pediatrician was arrested and stands accused of molesting numerous child patients during office visits and videotaping the crimes.  Questions abound in this case, like why so many parents apparently left their kids alone with this guy long enough for them to be molested by him, and why the authorities in Delaware didn’t act sooner on complaints of inappropriate behavior.  Medical boards around the country send doctors here to Lawrence, KS to be evaluated by my colleagues and me when there are questions about the doctors’ fitness to practice.  I wish the Delaware board had sent this guy to us when suspicions were raised approximately a year ago.  I can’t tell you for certain, but I certainly hope that we could’ve spotted some red flags that could’ve spared some kids from becoming sex-crime victims.

The Utah mother of two who went missing shortly before Christmas while her husband supposedly had gone camping in the middle of the night in freezing conditions with their small kids (when he was supposed to be at work the next morning) unfortunately remains missing.  The husband’s now a “person of interest.”  Ya think?

A terrorist burned up his privates trying to ignite an explosion on an airplane, sending the U.S. air travel system into a panic at one of the busiest travel times of the year.  Anybody feel sorry for him?  Me neither.  Why he and his potentially-deadly baggage weren’t screened out, however, is cause for all of us to be concerned.

A shooting at the federal courthouse in Las Vegas left the shooter and a security guard dead and a federal marshal wounded.  From what we’ve been told about the motive/psychology of the shooter, he apparently was upset at the government because he didn’t think he was getting enough in Social Security payments.

Study this no. 1:  A new study on depression in teens found that teens who are sleep-deprived are more likely to become depressed.

Study this no. 2:  A new study on antidepressants found that in many cases, the drugs were not significantly more effective than placebos (inactive pills) in treating mild to moderate depression.  Kind of scary when you think about how hard pharmaceutical companies and some psychiatrists are pressing to put more people on more of these drugs more quickly (at younger ages) despite potentially-low effectiveness and potentially-damaging side effects.  If you know of someone, especially a child, who’s been harmed by psych meds, tell the person or the family to send me his/her/their story.

OK, that’s it for this rundown based on my memory of what I was hearing and saying here and there over the holidays, now let me know what I left out, and I’ll continue to follow the major cases, celebrity scandals, psychology news, and cultural chaos with you here and on t.v. in the year ahead!

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