Weekend Anthony update

On Saturday (day 10), the forensic case against Casey Anthony developed with testimony first from an FBI crime lab expert and then from a local crime scene investigator.  The FBI expert testified that a hair sample taken from the trunk of Anthony’s car shows signs of death (i.e. that it had come from the scalp of someone who had already died) and that it’s consistent with samples of Caylee’s hair.  On cross examination, however, the expert could not claim 100% certainty as to whether the hair is Caylee’s.  It seems like DNA should be able to provide virtually-100% certainty, at least with respect to whether the hair is Caylee’s, but apparently, the DNA available in/on the hair was sufficient to eliminate anyone other than a female relative of Caylee but not sufficient to narrow it down to Caylee.  Hence, the expert’s conclusion that the hair appears to have come from a deceased person is pivotal (because Caylee’s the only member of the included group whose hair could possibly have gotten into the trunk of Casey’s car after death).  Again, on cross examination, the expert could not claim 100% certainty as to whether the hair came from a deceased person.  The crime scene investigator testified about the collection of evidence from the car, samples of stains and air samples from the trunk.  The prosecution reportedly plans to present another two weeks’ worth of evidence, so stay tuned for a lot more of this kind of testimony in the days ahead.

After my last post, some have wanted to know more about the heredity of sociopathy.  Sociopathy hinges on conscious decisions to behave in destructive ways, so even though we do sometimes call it “Antisocial Personality Disorder,” it’s actually less like a mental disorder and more like a description of a dysfunctional yet deliberate pattern of behavior.  If there is a “disorder” part, it’s the characteristic psychological precursors of sociopathic behavior, which are:  profound narcissism (i.e. lack of empathy/consideration for the needs of others leading, to profoundly-selfish behavior) plus a high arousal threshold (i.e. high tolerance/enjoyment of risk, leading to stimulus/thrill-seeking behavior) and/or a high aversion to external control (i.e. a fear of being controlled/limited by others, leading to “Do unto others before they do unto me!” attitudes/behaviors).  Keep in mind, though, that thoughts do not force behavior — a person can have dysfunctional thoughts about doing destructive things, but that takes nothing away from his/her volition with regard to acting out his/her dysfunctional thoughts (i.e. a person can think that he/she’s the most/only important person in the world, and that risk is fun, and that he/she is always on the verge of being mistreated by others, and still, none of those thoughts force the person to engage in destructive behavior).  There don’t appear to be very strong correlations between sociopathic thinking or behavior in parents and their children.  The correlations that have been observed typically don’t resemble the correlations that we see in mental disorders with much clearer genetic components, like Schizophrenia, and they seem to be attributable less to genetics and more to the environments in which sociopathic parents raise their children.  It’s understandable, for example, that being mistreated by one’s parents could promote mistrust and expectations of mistreatment (this would be consistent with what Casey Anthony’s defense claims happened to her).  There are many sociopaths, though, who appear to have had the opposite of sociopathic parents — parents who actually over-indulged their children, and in so doing, may have planted the seeds of the narcissism inherent in sociopathy (I suspect that this may be more consistent with what really happened to Casey).

Now, I’m shifting from my psychologist perspective to my attorney perspective here because once again, Fox News host Geraldo Rivera and I disagree completely on an important legal aspect of the Anthony case.  Geraldo believes that the admission into evidence of videos of Casey lying to cops (before she was arrested) and to her parents (in jail) violate her Constitutional right not to testify against herself.  How?  Because, according to Geraldo, she hadn’t been given a “Miranda” warning (“You have the right to remain silent”) prior to the recordings of those videos.  Here are a couple of important things about Miranda warnings though:  1) Their purpose is to prevent people from being intimidated into thinking that they have to talk to cops (i.e. from being scared that the cops will somehow mistreat them if they don’t talk), and 2) They are required, under the narrowest interpretation of the Constitution, only when a person is in police custody (i.e. not free to leave), and under the broadest interpretation of the Constitution, only when a person is a suspect in a criminal investigation.  Now, in the pre-arrest videos, like the one in which Casey’s confronted by cops about not really working at Universal Studios, as far as the cops knew, Casey was just a mother of a missing child who had lied about things that supposedly happened around the time of her daughter’s disappearance.  Knowing what we know now, we’d all probably say that Casey should’ve been a murder suspect at that time, but keep in mind that the cops didn’t know back then that a death had even occurred — they’d been told that a kidnapping had been committed, by someone other than Casey.  So, while the cops berated her for lying to them, Casey certainly wasn’t in custody at that time, and she wasn’t officially a suspect in Caylee’s disappearance yet.  But even if the cops did suspect her of committing a crime (other than lying to them) at that time, it’s clear that Casey was not intimidated into thinking she had to talk to them.  Her demeanor suggests that she kept talking to them not because she was afraid they’d torture her or something but because she freely chose to play the role of a distraught mother who didn’t have anything to do with her child’s disappearance.  Then later, when she was recorded while talking to her family members in jail, I think that Geraldo is just flat-out wrong — she was of course in custody at that time, and she most certainly had been given her Miranda warning (at the time of her arrest), so she knew she had the right to remain silent and nevertheless chose to speak in a setting that wasn’t private.  Geraldo thinks that if Casey’s convicted, the conviction will be overturned, and we’ll be doing this all over again, but as I see it, there’s no Constitutional self-incrimination issue that could form the basis of a successful appeal.  If you like this sort of back and forth, I’ve written recently about other two other major disagreements with Geraldo:  1) whether the prosecution has over-charged Casey, back on 6/3/11, and 2) whether Casey could’ve intentionally murdered Caylee for convenience’s sake, back on 5/22/11.  (By the way, Casey’s best argument against the latter may be that she didn’t eliminate the child when she legally could’ve — i.e. didn’t have an abortion — but it’s nonetheless possible that she simply underestimated how difficult parenting would be, then after doing it for a couple of years, decided to eliminate the child.)

Finally, on a different topic altogether, I have to tell you about a comically-ridiculous television commercial that I keep seeing for some addiction “treatment” center in California (if you’re not a regular reader and don’t know why I put quotes around “treatment,” just search through the archives for some of the many times in which I’ve explained the bogus nature of most addiction “treatment”).  In this commercial, a guy who looks to be about 30 years old and apparently is one of the people running the “treatment” center claims to know first-hand that its approach to addiction “treatment” works.  How?  Because he supposedly “was an addict for ten years” and isn’t one anymore!  That’s kind of like a mother saying that she knows how to be a successful obstetrician because she was pregnant once and isn’t pregnant anymore (and in my experience, the mother’s claim would probably hold more water).  Almost every supposedly-cured addict I’ve ever seen has thought that he or she should be helping other people beat addictions, and it’s been tough for me not to just bust out laughing when I’ve heard that.  In their minds, their ability to “relate” to addicts is somehow necessary for there to be a curative therapeutic alliance, which is like saying, conversely, that anyone who hasn’t been pregnant (i.e. all men and a lot of women) can’t be a successful obstetrician.  What I’ve seen more often is the addict-turned-counselor sitting around talking about substance abuse with other people for a little while and then — surprise, surprise — choosing to go right back to substance abuse (another term I don’t use in the context of addiction is “relapse” because it’s insulting to people with real diseases who have real relapses, like recurrences of breast cancer or skin cancer — whenever an addict starts a sentence with, “When I relapsed, …” I ask him/her to stop and restart that sentence with, “When I chose to use again, … .”

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