If you read my previous post, you know that last week was Spring Break week at the University of Kansas, where I teach a course. While the students were away, I was…here, working, and here’s some of what happened on the Lawpsyc front:
If you read my posts regularly, you know that I was critical last fall of the judge overseeing rapper Chris Brown’s probation when she praised the rapper for apparently adhering to the terms of his probation, which is akin to praising someone who got a DUI yesterday for driving sober today. Well, surprise, surprise, it seems Brown’s had a setback. Last week, he appeared on Good Morning America, and after the interviewer asked him about his criminal case, Brown apparently returned to his dressing room, ransacked it, including the breaking of a window, then exited the studio shirtless, all amid a loud, profane tirade. So, at the very least we have evidence that “anger management” counseling hasn’t sunken in. How shocking! (Not really — as I’ve said and written time and again, anyone who truly wants to contain his anger doesn’t need counseling to do so; it’s not hard; you just don’t hit anyone or anything.) Beyond that, it looks like we also have new criminal behavior in the form of criminal property damage to the Good Morning America dressing room. If I were the judge, Brown would be behind bars faster than he could say “yeah” three times, and that’s no b.s. Is that what will happen? No, which is why Brown will be back in trouble…again…sooner rather than later. Just wait.
If you watched Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell on HLN last Tuesday night, you watched us discuss the case of a Texas man who “allegedly” kidnapped his former neighbor, took her to his new home, strung her up on a deer-skinning rack, went back and burned her house down, and sexually assaulted her, brutally and repeatedly, until police came to his door to serve a warrant, whereupon she was able to draw their attention. First off, being Spring Break and all, we talked about how reminiscent this is of the “BTK” serial killings here in Kansas, in which the perpetrator was a church elder and city employee with a wife and kids, the point being that psychopaths can be extremely difficult to spot until it’s too late (and the lesson therein being that women need to be extremely cautious about being alone with men until they’ve had ample time to get to know them in relatively safe settings). Next, the psychopathy and sadism evident in this case are so extreme that if this woman is the defendant’s first victim, it would be akin to taking a car from a dead stop to 100 mph instantly. It just doesn’t happen. These kinds of behaviors typically start out early in life and escalate over time. If there aren’t other victims (and cops reportedly are looking for connections between this guy and multiple unsolved cases), I’ll be shocked. Finally, there’s the issue of bail. I put “allegedly” in quotes because, come on, the woman was found in his house. Is there seriously a chance he didn’t do it? So why on Earth would we give the guy bail? His bail is set at roughly half a million dollars, so it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to bond out, but why would we let him back out where he could try it again for any amount? The purpose of bail is to balance the liberty interests of people who haven’t been convicted of anything and the government’s interest in making sure that they show back up for trial. In this case, as I said, the woman was in his house, so I’d say his liberty interests as a yet-to-be-proven-guilty individual are negligible. If I were the judge, and I were required by law to set bail, it’d be a billion dollars. Lastly on this case, the defendant, who reportedly has a net worth of roughly $200,000, requested a public defender, and the judge at least denied that request, noting that the defendant is not indigent. The mere request, though, is a nice illustration of the narcissism that I’m always saying is at the core of psychopathy (e.g. “Other people did such and such to me when I was a kid, so now I’m entitled to hurt other people when I’m an adult” — it’s all about them, the psychopaths, never about the victims).
And a Michigan man was arrested last week after a crude improvised explosive device that he allegedly manufactured was found at the Detroit federal building, which houses that city’s FBI office. The defendant, an electrical engineer, reportedly has a history of paranoid schizophrenia with poor treatment adherence and delusions including having been President of the United States, Governor of California, and a federal agent. The judge in the case has ordered a psychological evaluation of the defendant, no surprise, and it certainly sounds like the guy’s nuts. Keep in mind, though, that there’s a big difference between the clinical and legal definitions of insanity. He may very well be insane clinically, but to be insane legally, he has to be so insane that he either didn’t know what he was doing or couldn’t have known that it was wrong (i.e. that it was criminal — he may have believed that criminal behavior was somehow justified, but that’s not the question). Keep in mind also that if a mind, however deficient otherwise, was working well enough to make a bomb and place it inside a federal facility, there’s good reason to suspect that it was probably also working well enough both to know what it was doing and to differentiate right from wrong (legal from illegal).
And while we’re on the subject of the insanity defense, I’m thrilled to report that it didn’t work last week in a notorious New Hampshire case wherein the now-21-year-old defendant was convicted of brutally torturing a mother and her young daughter, killing the mother, purely for the thrill that he got out of making them suffer. Now, you might say that anyone who gets thrilled by the suffering of others is sick, and that’s probably true, but you have to keep in mind that enjoying the idea of something doesn’t make the person have to do anything. The molester of a child, for example, can no more blame the molestation on pedophilia than the rapist of an adult can blame his crime on “adultophilia” — neither defendant’s preferred object of sexual attraction requires the individual to do anything to anyone. The New Hampshire case was dicey nevertheless because that state allows for a uniquely liberal application of the insanity defense. Instead of requiring a defendant to be so insane that he/she didn’t know what he was doing or couldn’t have known that it was wrong, New Hampshire law allows a defendant to be found not guilty by reason of insanity if his/her actions are considered to have been the product of mental illness. In other words, in New Hampshire, unlike in other states, it’s conceivable that a defendant could be found not guilty if he/she committed a crime, knew what he/she was doing, and was fully capable of knowing that it was wrong, but wanted to do it because of a mental illness. Essentially, in New Hampshire, a defendant can claim that he/she did have to act on sick thoughts, and if a jury believes that, the defendant can be found not guilty. The problem is that it’s never true, and the New Hampshire legislature should hire me immediately to help it redraft the law to bring it into line with the rest of America. In this case, experts who examined the defendant found that the only “diagnosis” that applied to him was “antisocial personality disorder.” As I’ve explained many times, that’s clinical lingo for a sociopath. It’s not really a mental “illness” inasmuch as it’s a description of a behavior pattern characterized by the victimization of others for the perpetrator’s gain/thrills/punishment-avoidance. It’s certainly progressively dysfunctional in the long run in terms of the perpetrator’s relationships with others, but it absolutely does not force the perpetrator to do anything. Thankfully, the jury in this case rejected the defendant’s assertion that he assaulted the mother and daughter and hacked them (to death in the mother’s case) with a knife and a machete because of “antisocial personality disorder” stemming from childhood mistreatment. Cry me a river, creep. Speaking of rivers, you’ll be glad to know that he’s headed up the river for the rest of his life, no parole (at least New Hampshire got the mandatory-life-sentence thing right).
And just a quick sidebar about the military action going on in Libya — I’m no Gaddafi (however you spell it) fan, and I’m fine with seeing him run out of Libya (or off the face of the Earth) with the help of the U.S., but am I the only one who thought I heard President Obama say no U.S. planes would be enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya and so was surprised a few days later to see a U.S. plane somehow crashed on Libyan soil? Maybe I misunderstood the President; maybe he meant that U.S. planes just wouldn’t be used to patrol the no-fly zone once it was established; but I think if his predecessor were in office right now, more journalists might be remembering it more like I’m remembering it and asking the same question I’m asking when the President speaks to the nation about the Libya mission later today.
Finally, it was announced last week that several new words and acronyms are being added to the formally-recognized English vocabulary, words like “muffin-top” and acronyms like “L.O.L.” So, while we’re at it, I’d like to propose one for next year. Actually, it’s an alteration of the meaning of an existing acronym. As a psychologist, I think that “A.D.H.D.” would be more meaningful and accurate if it stood for “Adult Deficient Handling Disorder” instead of “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” In almost every case of “A.D.H.D.” that I’ve ever seen, which are many, there’s been more wrong with the kid’s parenting than with the kid.