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May 11, 2009

A favorite footnote of the day

M6268 Though not of any consequence to the ruling in the case (or really to anything else), I could not resist a little monkeying around by spotlighting here a favorite footnote from a Third Circuit panel ruling in a capital case today.  Here is the textual paragraph for context and then the footnote: 

After a psychiatric evaluation, Hammer presented an insanity defense. A forensic psychiatrist testified that Hammer suffered from dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) and that one of his alter personalities[FN2] killed Marti; therefore, the defense argued, Hammer himself was not legally responsible.

[FN2] The defense’s forensic psychiatrist testified that Hammer had four alter personalities: 1) Jocko, a violent male; 2) Tammy, a female; 3) Wilbur, a child; and 4) Jasper, a chimpanzee.  He contended that Jocko killed Marti.

Here is my follow-up question: how exactly could the forensic psychiatrist know that the "Jasper" alter personality was a chimp and not, say, a gorilla or a baboon?   I have to assume that "Jasper" was not a talking chimpanzee, so how exactly was he able to inform the forensic psychiatrist concerning which member of the ape/monkey family belonged to? 

I guess I will just never fully understand forensic psychology.

May 11, 2009 at 09:35 PM | Permalink


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» Jocko Killed Marti from Strange Doctrines
Via Doug Berman, a Third Circuit case here (pdf) involves a defendant who based an insanity defense on dissociative identity disorder. According to a forensic psychiatrist who testified, [Defendant] Hammer had four alter personalities: 1) Jocko, a viol... [Read More]

Tracked on May 13, 2009 10:02:12 AM


Not much to understand. The evaluation is false. You may dismiss it. The personalities do not exist. The diagnosis does not exist. This is the trap of the supernatural. The court got itself into this discussion of the non-existent by acceptance of the supernatural idea of intent.

Prove the defendant wrong. Viking spirits made the defendant commit murder. The defendant had no intent to do so. It's like that.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 11, 2009 10:10:20 PM

SC. You may dismiss it or think that it does not lessen the defendant's culpability, but contrary to your post, the diagnosis does exist. It is DSM IV 300.14.

Though from your other posts, I suppose you believe mental illness is just a myth propagated by rent-seeking psychiatrists.

Posted by: dm | May 11, 2009 10:25:46 PM

In fact, the rent-seeking theory is just put forth by rent-seeking economic theorists.

Posted by: LOLZ | May 11, 2009 10:29:27 PM


You seem to be making the assumption that there is no association in dissociative identity disorder. That's not true, and it one of the many reasons I personally prefer the old terminology of multiple personality disorder.

In fact, it's entirely possible (although not typical) for the seperate identities to be entirely aware of each other.

I must admit out of purely clinical curiosity I would like to see the chimp in action. That is a rather unusual choice (and I bet it's damn funny.)

Posted by: Daniel | May 11, 2009 10:51:44 PM

DM: I support all diagnoses in that list that contain symptoms in this, our physical world. Even subjective symptoms, such as a sad mood, is a physical state, and is fine with me.

Separate "personalities" is similar to the words, spirits, souls, ghosts. Prof. Berman is very bright. Something destroyed his discernment. If the defendant reported being abducted by aliens, being probed in the flying saucer, the number of people abducted is 10 times greater than that of DID and would be more credible.

If Daniel takes that diagnosis seriously, he loses credibility with me.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 11, 2009 11:37:08 PM

SC, I'm sure the prospect terrifies him.

Posted by: Amendment 21 | May 12, 2009 4:31:39 AM

Good clarification, Daniel, but then how can be be sure this defendant's other personalities knew the different between a chimp, a gorilla and a baboon? And, relatedly, how did they learn that his name was Jasper?

Posted by: Doug B. | May 12, 2009 6:08:16 AM

Prof. Berman mocks properly. It is patients who should be terrified if a psychologist believes in anti-scientific fiction. In a seance, at least the chain noises were verifiable.

If only Prof. Berman could see the absurdity of the core doctrines he teaches.

The standard of proper conduct must be set by a fictional character. Or, a mistrial must be declared. Why? To make the standard objective.

Sure. We're in the frickin' Twilight Zone.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 12, 2009 6:59:40 AM

LOLZ: You probably still buy the Coase Theorem after Texaco v Pennzoil. The Rent Seeking Theory is the most powerful and predictive economic theory of the law.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 12, 2009 7:05:20 AM

Interesting. If the psychiatrist is right, then the puzzle would be solved by just addressing Hammer as Jocko at his execution. Jocko apparently deserves the death penalty.

Posted by: anonymous | May 12, 2009 9:13:47 AM

I do not believe that the diagnosis is catagorized within the ranks of psychotic illnesses within the DSMIV. Can someone with more expertise fill us in on that? If it is a personality disorder, then I do not believe that it would constitute a mental disease or illness defense.

Posted by: mpb | May 12, 2009 9:33:19 AM

Doug. I'll take those questions at face value.

I think you may be having difficulty fully comprehending in this case what MPD really is. The test of MPD is not, as SC would have it, whether it is an objective reality. The test is whether it is a subjective reality for the patient himself. The various subjective realities (personalities) are not created out of the ether; they created out of the contents previously existing in the psyche.

Second, as for the name; it was probably another of the personalities that named the chimp Jasper. It's possible also that the psychologist named the chimp that in the course of treatment (with the consent of the patient) just as an easy way to refer to it. If the latter was the case, the psychologist had a cheesy sense of humor.

Outside observers know that this man is no more a chimp than a carrot. But if the patient believes he is a chimp and acts that belief out, then from a psychological point of view that is his identity at that time. As for whether those identities are true (as opposed to the patient faking it to beat a murder rap) that is part of what clinical training is all about. It is something, as this case illustrates, on which psychologists can and do disagree.

Posted by: Doug | May 12, 2009 9:39:16 AM

MPB. There is nothing in the DSM that has anything to do with mental disease defenses in the law. The criteria by which the DSM defines illnesses and the way the law does are alien to each other.

Posted by: Doug | May 12, 2009 12:22:27 PM

Those last two posts were from me, I don't know why it says Doug. Must have been a boo boo on my part, sorry.

Posted by: Daniel | May 12, 2009 12:23:43 PM

If a mental diagnosis is to be used as an excuse or as a mitigating factor, should it not have its onset prior to the crime? Did the psychiatrist depend on pre-crime psychiatric records? Or did this condition arise after the crime?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 12, 2009 3:57:35 PM

Daniel is correct. The use of DSM criteria in an adversarial setting is inappropriate. There is a presumption that the diagnosis is made in agency to the patient. It takes truth telling and candor for granted. Once there is a motivation to lie, the diagnosis has no validity. One then has to get tricky with the patient, which is mildly unethical for the physician or psychologist examiner. One does not tell the patient the inidicia of lying, the implausibility of their symptoms, that their reporting is patently ridiculous, and to get out of the office.

We had the same discussion about the IQ. The latter requires full dedication to performing well. In a tribunal there is a strong motivation to do poorly, which can easily be done intentionally.

If there were any real standing for victims, their lawyers would strongly object to these criteria as unfair to the victim.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 12, 2009 4:26:26 PM

Here is a bit more information that folks may find helpful. Currently, no consensus exists among the courts regarding the availability of an MPD/DID defense. However, there seem to be two analyses used by the majority of courts.

The first analysis focuses on the mental state of the alternate personality in control at the time of the alleged crime. Under that test, it is immaterial whether a defendant was in one state of consciousness or another, so long as in the personality then controlling his behavior, he was conscious and his actions were a product of his own volition.

The second approach focuses on the host’s mental state. The host is the dominant personality that generally has control of the body for the greatest amount of time. Under this approach, courts must assess the host’s mental state at the time of the crime and cannot ignore proof that the host personality was not aware of the wrongful conduct (ie if another alternate personality committed it while in control of the body).

To address the post from 3:57, because no consensus exists, there is no exact rule as to when onset of the disease has to occur in order to make use of the defense. I personally think to seek a defense on this basis should require that the defendant suffer from it prior to commission of the offense. I agree that malingering is certainly a risk when discussing the availability of this defense. However, recent psychological research suggests that using a combination of data from the defendant’s clinical history, past records, specialized diagnostic testing, and other corroborative information would be a way to provide objective evidence that the defendant had MPD prior to the crime, thereby ruling out malingering.

Another recent development that may prevent malingering is psychiatrists’ use of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders-Revised (SCID-D-R) to test for MPD. Research has shown that the SCID-D-R achieves high reliability and validity, and more importantly, can reliably detect malingering.

Posted by: Tiffany | May 12, 2009 6:00:04 PM

I can get excellent inter-rater, intra-rater, test-retest, split half reliabilities on a person's belief they were abducted and anally probed on the space mother ship, and rejected back to earth, especially if fat, bald, old, and an alcoholic. That even has a familial aggregation, as validating evidence.

Alien abduction is far more prevalent that DID, and a greater problem in our society. Any problem with the use of this traumatic experience as a mitigating factor in sentencing?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 12, 2009 7:32:59 PM

Regarding the DSM IV and other such tracts. It seems to me that if the defendant has a shrink on the stand trying to justify an insanity defense, the prosecutor would cross examine with the use of scientific standards. Then the prosecutor could point out the hierarch within the standards between psychotic illness and disorders of lessor traction. On voir dire the prosecutor could inquire if any juror has any phobias and will get an answer from someone. But that juror wont think that his or her dog phobia is mental illness. Then when it comes down to the alter ego defense the shrink will admit that the defendant was not on thorazine for the illness and indeed that would be overkill because the defendant is not that sick.

I would only try to sell an insanity defense on some crime which carried a whole lot of time or death. Because if the client gets NGRI then the client gets in indeterminable sentence to a nuthouse that is worse than prison. Jack Nickleson will verify this.

Posted by: mpb | May 14, 2009 5:12:39 AM

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