Weekend update

As we prepare for what the new week will bring, here are some updates on stories that I’ve been discussing lately:

California Prof. Rainer Reinscheid’s Arraignment Postponed

The California college professor who was arrested a couple of weeks ago for allegedly setting fires and plotting mass murder/suicide at his deceased son’s former school was supposed to be arraigned last Wednesday, but the arraignment was postponed until this Wednesday, Aug. 15.  As I explained here last week, it seems like it’s indeed proving somewhat difficult to figure out exactly what charges to file against this guy.

Loughner’s Guilty Plea Accepted

As I predicted last week, Arizona shooter Jared Loughner’s guilty plea was accepted by a federal judge after conducting a detailed inquiry into Loughner’s competency to enter the plea.  Thus, Loughner is now convicted of the massacre that left a federal judge and several others dead and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords severely wounded.  Loughner has been returned to a federal prison mental health facility in Missouri pending formal sentencing, but he’ll spend the rest of his life in prison.  Good riddance.

“Mentally-Ill” Colorado Shooter James Holmes Claims Right to Privacy

Attorneys for Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes were back in court last week (along with Holmes, who reportedly didn’t say anything and appeared generally bored during the hearing) to argue against a motion filed by the media to gain access to Holmes’ psychiatric records, which are expected to be critical evidence in the case.  As I predicted here a couple of weeks ago, Holmes’ attorneys are claiming that the records are (doctor-patient) privileged, which I don’t think is entirely true (at least not with respect to any sort of “manifesto” that Holmes sent to his psychiatrist prior to the massacre at the movie theater), but as I also explained, the records are likely to become part of the public record eventually either way, just maybe not as soon as we’d like (the judge is supposed to rule on the media’s motion this coming week).

Not surprisingly, Holmes attorneys repeatedly referred to their client last week as “mentally ill,” foreshadowing where they indeed are headed with their defense — insanity (and as you know, I predict it won’t work).  By the way, there’s been a lot of speculation that the “mental illness” in this case is going to be schizophrenia, so I want to correct a common misconception about that condition — the “schism” from which the name originates is not between “split” or “multiple” personalities; it’s between the individual and reality (i.e. a catatonic state or, more commonly, psychosis — hallucinations, delusions, etc.).

Sikh Temple Shooter’s Death Wasn’t “Suicide by Cop” (Who cares?)

Once conflicting accounts of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin were resolved, it was clarified that the shooter in fact committed suicide directly rather than “by cop.”  While a police officer did shoot the raging gunman, as initially reported, that shot hit the gunman in the abdomen, and the fatal shot to the gunman’s head was self-inflicted shortly thereafter.  I don’t think that this really makes any difference because the bottom line is the same:  the Wisconsin gunman didn’t want to survive that rampage, while the Colorado gunman went to great lengths to ensure his survival, suggesting that the Wisconsin shootings speak for themselves, while the Colorado shooter may yet have more to say.

“Son of Sam” Serial Killer’s On-Target Assessment of Mass Shooters

Interestingly, a New York Daily News reporter asked the infamous “Son of Sam” serial killer, David Berkowitz, imprisoned for life in New York, what he thinks of the recent shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin.  Believe it or not, I actually substantially agree with Berkowitz’s overall assessment of the alarming state of affairs in our nation.  He said, “I know that’s a bit simplistic, but to me, the whole tragedy is that [some] young people are losing direction and don’t value life or have no clue why they’re on this Earth.”  I know, asking Berkowitz what’s wrong with our culture is a bit like reading former (philandering) South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s book to find out how to have a good Christian marriage, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Hearsay Sets the Stage for the “Battle of the Experts” in the Peterson Trial 

No surprises in the Drew Peterson murder trial since I wrote about it last.  Basically, more witnesses testified that the deceased was afraid of Peterson.  I did my best last week to encapsulate the complexities of such “hearsay” evidence in a fairly succinct post, so I’ll just add here that 1) the prosecution scored a considerable victory in persuading the judge to allow the jury to hear a lot of that testimony, and 2) juries still prefer direct evidence, especially a “smoking gun,” to hearsay.  The trial continues in Illinois this week.

You may have heard some pundits covering this trial mention the “C.S.I. effect” (referring to the popular C.S.I. — Crime Scene Investigations — television show) on jurors.  So what is that?  Well, on C.S.I. (and other shows like it), murder cases seem to always get solved in the last few minutes of each episode with the revelation of some scientific (e.g. D.N.A.) evidence so compelling as to be the functional equivalent of a “smoking gun,” establishing the perpetrator’s guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.  It’s been theorized that as such shows have pervaded our collective cultural consciousness, they’ve actually led jurors to have unrealistic expectations of the evidence presented to them in real cases and to be less likely to convict defendants when the evidence doesn’t meet their expectations.

If there were ever a test case of the “C.S.I. effect,” the Peterson case may be it.  Look for the “battle of the [forensic pathological] experts” to begin this week and to fall well short of a “smoking gun,” as I’ve previewed here previously.  In psychology, we don’t have tests that typically provide the kind of objective certainty that medical tests can provide, so as a forensic psychological expert, I’m used to having to explain “shades of gray” and what they mean to judges and jurors.  It’ll be interesting to see how well these pathologists do on the witness stand.  Keep in mind, the first pathologist determined, shortly after the deceased’s death, that it was an accident, while two other pathologists determined, years later and with substantially-degraded evidence, that it was murder.

19-Year-Old Gets 45-Year Sentence for Armed Robbery in Texas

Also tonight, a 19-year-old Texas man was sentenced last week to 45 years in prison for committing armed robbery at a Halloween party filled with teenagers in 2010.  The convict went from guest to guest taking money and property and didn’t shoot anyone, but did hold a gun to at least one person’s head.  Some pundits will likely say that a 45-year sentence is too long, and I’ll say no, it isn’t!  Why should I want to take a chance on having this creep show up at my next Halloween party, or yours?  If he wanted to have a normal life, it wasn’t hard — all he had to do was find a lawn and mow it, find some dishes and wash them, find some tables and wait them… .  Instead, he chose to threaten others’ lives and take their property.

Taking a big chunk out of his life is not only what we law-abiding Americans need (to preserve our safety), but it’s also what he needs (to have a substantial expectation of not escalating to murder and either getting executed or re-incarcerated for life when he gets out, which will probably be significantly less than 45 years from now), and it’s also what other young men considering careers in armed robbery need (to see happening more frequently, as a deterrent).  Yes, people who commit murder sometimes get shorter sentences, but the problem is that their sentences are too short, not that this guy’s sentence is too long.  Good riddance.

Study This: The Relationship Between Honesty and Health 

And, as you know, I write a lot about dishonest people here, and when I do, I continually urge people to instead practice honesty in their lives.  Well, in case appeals to morality and long-term interpersonal functionality aren’t enough, a new study found that people appear to be healthier, physically and mentally, the fewer lies they tell.  So, even for those narcissists among us who are only looking out for themselves, sounds like there’s good reason to be honest.

Olympics End Without a Major Security Breach

And finally tonight, the 2012 Summer Olympics drew to a close on Sunday without a major security breach, so props to those unseen and unheard individuals in the U.K. and around the world who also deserve medals for securing the Games and allowing the rest of us to focus our attention on the athletes!


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