In case you missed it, on Friday’s Jane Velez-Mitchell on HLN, we talked more about the Powell case — the tragic story of the guy who intentionally incinerated himself and his two young sons last weekend. It was supposed to have been a supervised visit, but Powell locked the supervising social worker out of the house before setting it ablaze. A family court judge had recently awarded custody to the boys’ maternal grandparents and ordered a psycho-sexual assessment of Powell pursuant to the discovery of incestuous virtual imagery on Powell’s computer. Such an assessment typically would consist of techniques like reviewing the evidence, interviewing the subject and others, psychologically testing the subject, and sometimes even physiologically testing the subject (there’s a test called “plethysmography,” for example, that measures a subject’s physiological sexual arousal in response to images of children, violence, etc.). Lots of people are second-guessing the 911 operator for not getting the cops to Powell’s house fast enough and/or the cops for not responding fast enough. Keep in mind, though, that they get lots of calls every weekend from parents involved in custody fights, complaining about late pickups and drop-offs, etc., and most of them are bogus. As an expert in child custody cases, my bottom line focused more on the judge: If a judge believes there’s enough reason for concern about sexual victimization of kids to remove those kids from a parent’s custody and order a psycho-sexual assessment, then pending the findings of that assessment, if you’re going to allow visitation at all, it seems more reasonable to me to have it occur in a professional facility designed for that purpose, like the ones that we use here in Kansas, with professionals on hand to facilitate the visits and provide security, rather than in the parent’s home, even with a social worker present.
Also on Friday’s JVM, we talked about the case of a North Carolina man who’s on trial (for a second time — the first trial ended in a hung jury) for murdering his pregnant wife after she refused to abort her pregnancy, which would’ve resulted in their second child. Our discussion centered on why murder is among the leading causes of death for pregnant women (but still relatively rare at about two out of every 100,000 pregnancies, which of course is still two too many). I explained that this is a relatively new but important area of research in forensic psychology because murder is a leading cause of death for women between certain ages whether they’re pregnant or not, so we need to really figure out whether, how, and why the risk seems to go up during pregnancy. Some have theorized about a kind of “pre-partum depression” wherein fathers get depressed and anxious about their impending fatherhood. I think that’s bogus. I think these guys who kill their pregnant wives and girlfriends are generally just sociopaths who typically have other sexual relationships on the side (as in the case we discussed on Friday) and are narcissistically worried about the impact that fatherhood will have on their personal and financial freedom. I also believe that murder is rarely the first violent event to occur in these relationships, so my advice for pregnant women was basically the same as it is for all women, which is to get themselves and any children the heck out of of there at the first indication that a guy has a propensity toward violence. (The most fascinating aspect of these cases, to me, is always their implications for abortion in our country. I mean, it makes absolutely no logical sense that this guy could be charged with double murder for killing his wife and unborn baby — in this case he’s not, but that’s only because the law didn’t allow it back when his charges were originally filed; now it does — but the wife could’ve acquiesced to his wishes and aborted the baby with no criminal charge at all. Whatever we each individually believe about abortion, we can’t have the same result be a capital crime or completely legal depending on whether a woman wanted it to happen or not. If this guy truly murdered his pregnant wife, then logically speaking, he’s either guilty of just one murder or we have to end elective abortion.)
Birth Control Controversy Development
Speaking of birth-control methods, the Obama Administration has backed off of its requirement that Catholic and other religious organizations provide health insurance coverage including birth-control to their employees. The policy revision really just shifts the cost, though — it essentially allows the religious employers to refuse to pay for the birth-control provisions but requires the insurance companies nevertheless to provide the benefits (yes, that’s right, they’ll just recover the costs of providing those mandated benefits by raising premiums across the board). So, two things:
1) The insurance companies should be up in arms about this because, in the vast majority of cases, birth control is NOT a health care service or treatment. There are some women who use it to regulate their hormones for other reasons, but the vast majority of women who use birth control use it so that they can have sex without getting pregnant. Thus, in the vast majority of cases, birth control is used to prevent normal bodily function, not to restore or maintain it. Health insurance, though, is intended to help people manage the expenses incurred in restoring or maintaining normal bodily functioning after illnesses or injuries. It’s why health insurance generally doesn’t cover cosmetic procedures (unless necessary to repair disfigurement from an injury). If insurance companies want to provide birth-control benefits, fine, but they shouldn’t be forced by law to cover something that’s not a medical necessity, regardless of whether the purchaser of the coverage is a religious organization.
2) If you’re a religious person who was upset by the Administration’s attempt to require religious organizations to provide something that conflicts with their morals, and if you’re now satisfied with the Administration’s revision of that requirement, you may want to still beware. Why? Because if this is the kind of thing that the Administration tries to do while facing a re-election battle, just imagine the intrusions and over-reaches that it might attempt with four more years in office and no concern about re-election.
Diving Murder Trial to Start Next Week
Remember the Alabama man who served a short time behind bars for manslaughter in Australia after allegedly killing his newlywed wife on their scuba-diving honeymoon down under? Well, his U.S. trial starts next week in Alabama — he’s being tried again here because he allegedly conspired here to murder her in order to cash in on a life-insurance policy — and this time he faces life in prison without parole (the State of Alabama had to take the death penalty off the table in order to get the Australian government to agree to extradite the guy back to the U.S. to face this trial).
Madonna/Berry Stalker Back in Custody, Berry Can Stay
A mentally-ill man who has stalked both singer Madonna and actress Halle Berry is back in custody after escaping from a state mental hospital in California. I’ve performed the type of psychological assessment that a guy like this typically undergoes, and I can tell you that they can be extremely dangerous. They typically develop what we call “erotomanic” delusions, wherein they truly believe that they have, or are destined to have, cosmic romantic connections with the objects of their obsessions, whether they be celebrities or non-celebrities, and they sometimes fantasize about committing murder-suicide so that they can be together forever in the afterlife. So, it’s very good news that this guy is back in lock-down.
As a side note, though, I think it was utterly bogus for Berry to reportedly argue in family court that she needed to move to France, taking her child far away from the child’s father, to escape the danger posed by the stalker. Why? Four reasons: A) It’s generally a loss for a child when that child loses regular access to one of his/her parents, B) There would’ve been no assurance that Berry and the child would’ve been much safer in France with the stalker on the loose, C) Berry presumably can afford all the security that she and the child need in California, and D) Berry reportedly just so happens to have a love interest in France, which makes her fear/security argument seem rather duplicitous to me. If I were the family-court judge, I wouldn’t have let her leave my jurisdiction with the child even while the stalker was loose, and now that the stalker has been caught, I’d be saying, “Case closed.”
Pot Smoking Does Affect Driving
I’ve been saying this for years in response to marijuana-legalization advocates who’ve argued that pot doesn’t endanger the public when people get behind the wheel high as it does when they’re drunk. Now, the data is in, and it supports me: People who have smoked pot within a few hours of getting behind the wheel are twice as likely to cause a collision compared to non-intoxicated drivers. Surprise, surprise!
DSM Bloating Again?
Just when I praised the committee revising the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders for making the diagnostic criteria for Autism-spectrum disorders more stringent, it sounds like they’re back at it — bloating the book to include all kinds of bogus “disorders” that essentially describe normal phenomena like “grief” and “shyness” and serve only to enable mental health professionals to find more things to charge people money for and pharmaceutical companies more things to medicate people for. Weighing in at about 900 pages, it should be obvious to anyone, expert or not, that while there are some positive developments, overall, the APA apparently is still tending to over-pathologize things in this book!
Before I go, check out this video of a father who literally shot up his teenage daughter’s laptop (outside, in a field, no apparent endangerment of anyone) after her repeated misbehavior on Facebook. As you may know, I’m often critical of parents who are too aloof and/or too lax in disciplining their kids. Now I’m not recommending that firearms be involved in parenting on a regular basis, but I do think that a lot of American parents could learn something from watching the video that this guy made and posted — where else? — on his daughter’s Facebook page. Enjoy: http://digitallife.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/10/10373426-dad-punishes-facebook-post-with-8-bullets-to-daughters-laptop
Have a great weekend!