Knox, Murray, Lapre, and G.I.D.

Knox Not Guilty!

Well, the verdict is in, and for the second time this year, I’ve watched what I believe is a guilty woman walk free in a high-profile case.  American Amanda Knox, convicted and sentenced to 26 years in an Italian prison for her alleged role in the murder of her British study-abroad roommate over four years ago, has been acquitted of the murder on appeal.  An Italian appeals court on Monday found Knox guilty only of defaming the man whom she accused of committing the murder, even though he wasn’t anywhere near the crime scene and could prove it, and sentenced her essentially to time served plus financial penalties (a fine and restitution).  Hmmmmm, sound familiar?  Yes, the Italian cops seem to have botched the investigation badly (contaminated DNA, over-interrogated Knox, etc.), but no, that doesn’t mean she’s innocent.  She still tried to frame an innocent man, and I don’t think innocent defendants usually do that.  She also said she wasn’t at the scene of the crime either during the murder or between the time of the victim’s death and the discovery of the body, but it was proven to me, beyond a reasonable doubt, that she was in fact there, at least after the murder.  I don’t think innocent defendants usually lie about things like that either – if they stumble upon a murdered roommate, I think they usually call the police rather than flee the scene.  If I had to bet $1,000 of my own money one way or the other, I’d still bet she’s guilty.  She may not have been the one who actually slit the victim’s throat, but I’d bet, at the very least, that she 1) was present when it happened, 2) knows exactly what happened, and 3) helped try to cover it up to protect herself and her male friend.  If/when we hear about Knox back in trouble here in the U.S., others will express surprise and then chalk it up to the “trauma” of being jailed for four years for a murder she didn’t commit.  Not me.

Doctor’s Disingenuous Defense

In the manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s personal physician, multiple doctors have now testified that Murray never told them about the propofol that Jackson had in his system when he flat-lined and never regained consciousness.  It continues to look like Murray was more concerned about covering his own ass than about saving Jackson’s.  I also continue to be underwhelmed by the defense, and here’s an illustration of why:  On Monday, when a prosecutor asked one of the physician witnesses whether it was important to keep detailed medical records, the defense objected.  The objection was immediately overruled, and the witness answered the question.  That sort of thing, I think, is irritating to jurors and is thus counterproductive.  In a case like this one, you don’t object to a doctor stating that it’s important to keep good records.  Everyone knows that it is.  Objecting to that question made Murray’s defense counsel look disingenuous at best and, in my opinion, downright obnoxious.

From 1-Bedroom Apartment to 1-Room Cell to Suicide

Remember Don Lapre?  Probably not.  I’ll help:  He’s the guy who used to be in late-night infomercials telling all of us how he supposedly made “millllllllllllllions of dollars” out of his “tiny one-bedroom apartment” by “placing tiny classified ads” in newspapers across the country.  After that, he launched another alleged scam, selling “the world’s greatest vitamin” (that’s right, he supposedly knew all about advertising and also knew all about nutrition).  That one landed him in jail, indicted for defrauding tens of thousands of Americans (who apparently could have used a brain-power supplement that actually worked) to the collective tune of a couple hundred million dollars.  Well, over the weekend, he apparently committed suicide in his jail cell (yes, there’ll be an investigation into why he had the means to do so, but I suspect he simply gave no indication that he needed to be on suicide watch).  In a last post on his web site, Lapre was still claiming to have done nothing wrong, still feeling sorry for himself exclusively, and still showing no remorse about the damage that had been done to his hapless clientele.  So, there won’t be a next venture for Lapre, no “millions of dollars from a one-room cell,” but the suicide part is sad nevertheless.

F.A.Q. on G.I.D. 

And finally, a recent CNN piece on “Gender Identity Disorder” (G.I.D.) in children and the passage of state and local laws and ordinances prohibiting employers and landlords from restricting access to employment, housing, or public accommodations (e.g. restrooms) based on someone’s gender identity (e.g. a man’s self-identification as a woman) or, more accurately, the outward expression thereof (it’s actually not possible to discriminate against a gender identity per se because that’s invisibly contained in the mind, but it is possible to discriminate against a visible outward expression of a gender identity, e.g. a man’s female attire) have prompted some renewed clinical questions for me about that particular diagnosis.  Briefly, while I certainly never want to see anyone mistreated, the psychologist in me is skeptical that G.I.D. should be considered a separate diagnosis, distinct from other forms of reality disorientation, which then makes the lawyer in me skeptical that G.I.D. should be the subject of specifically-tailored legislation (I know, it sounds like I have a “profession identity disorder”).  Here’s my thinking on the G.I.D. issue:  If a patient came into a psychologist’s or psychiatrist’s office and said he believed that he’s Abraham Lincoln reincarnated, wanted his co-workers to start calling him “Abraham,” and wanted to be allowed to wear 1860’s-era clothes to his job at a men’s suit store, I think most of us would say we should try to help him conform his perception of reality to the world instead of the other way around.  If, on the other hand, the patient said he believed he’s a female, wanted his co-workers to start calling him a female name, and wanted to be allowed to wear female clothing to his job at the men’s suit store, I think many of us would see it much differently and would say we should try to encourage the world to conform to the patient’s perception of reality.  Proponents of this divergence of clinical impression point primarily to brain-imaging studies that show differences in female and male brain-activity patterns, but I personally still haven’t seen or heard convincing, data-driven explanations for such diametric divergences of diagnostic and interventional conceptualizations (i.e. explanations that don’t rely, at least in part, on cultural biases in favor of general tolerance or “political correctness” with respect to adult sexual preferences).  And for me, the word “adult” is really key here.  I think it’s one thing to diagnose G.I.D. in an adult and altogether something else to diagnose it in a child.  In my opinion, it’s premature to encourage a still-developing child to adopt/assume a gender identity that’s inconsistent with his/her biology, and I think that doing so in knee-jerk response to a child’s potentially-short-term gender dysphoria (expressed wishes that he/she could be the opposite gender) and/or contra-stereotypical childhood interests (e.g. a boy who likes to play with dolls) runs an unacceptably-high risk of doing more long-term harm than good.

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