Weekend Reads: The Best of the Web

Here is what’s happening in the world of mental health and criminal justice from around the web:Copcar

How to spot a liar: Secrets from the FBI

One of Casey Anthony’s attorney’s has written a book, says she’s basically imprisoned

LAPD Cop: There is a mental health state of emergency on Skid Row:

“I have had to arrest many mentally ill men and women who I knew and cared about after their illness drove them to harm someone. Though it was legal and in good faith, it was wrong. I put people in prison and jail who had needed help long before they committed their crimes. I could not stop them ahead of time because they did not say the magic words of “I want to kill myself” or “I want to hurt others.”

Woman accused of poisoning son with Visine drops

Oscar Pistorius was not mentally ill when he killed his girlfriend

Justin Ross Harris (and his wife) looks more and more guilty with every new detail: Today we learn he bought life insurance on his son

Conviction in the “Cannibal Cop” case is overturned. For those not familiar with the details, here is the long, detailed background about the case. It’s a great read

The Washington Post chronicles what it is like to live with someone who is actively psychotic and very sick but not “sick enough” to be committed: Behind the Yellow Door

There will now (finally) be a anti-suicide net on the Golden Gate Bridge

Very well researched piece about the surprising truth about women and violence

How our failed mental health system kills

The New York Times analyzes the mental health of zoo animals

Murder, Mental Health, The Death Penalty & New Video Might Have Blown Amanda Knox’s Alibi

William Bruce was a young man with schizophrenia. He was committed to a psychiatric hospital until mental health advocates helped get him released despite him being actively symptomatic and dangerous. He then killed his mother. Years later, he is in a hospital, medicated and has gained insight into his illness. He told the Wall Street Journal:

“None of this would have happened if I had been medicated.”

The gunman who killed three people and wounded four others in Arkansas had been released from a mental hospital a few days before the shooting. It’s not clear why but most likely either because he was a danger to himself or others.

Las Vegas cops held a “purity seminar” about “promiscuous” girls.

Remember the man (Byron Smith) who set a trap and executed two teen intruders? These recordings capture their horrific deaths. They are graphic. The shooter was given life in prison without parole.

Has Amanda Knox’s alibi for the night of Meredith Kercher’s murder just been blown? It might just be true, according to newly released footage.

Stephen Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, recently gave a speech at the United Nations about the death penalty and discrimination. It is worth reading in its entirety but I focused on the part about death for people with mental illnesses:

“…Of course they committed horrendous crimes, took innocent lives that left others suffering and scarred for life, and they must be isolated to protect society. But through no fault of their own, they are tormented souls suffering from devastating afflictions that leave them unable to think and reason like people who are not so afflicted. That is greater punishment that any court can impose…

Weekend Reads: Stalking Mom & Guilty Verdict For Man With Schizophrenia

Google Studying Employees

Did you know that Google is running a century-long study about how people work? Their employees are serving as study participants.

So far they have found there are two major approaches to work-life balance: segmentors and integrators. Segmentors are psychologically able to “turn it off” at home. They represent 31% of Google employees.

Intergrators are the kind of people who are constantly checking their emails. This group represented 69% of their employees.

Stalking Mother

This 44-year old mother was jailed for stalking a little league coach and his loved ones for her son not making the team. This letter was addressed to a 10-year old child:

“Think about it Dom. If something terrible happens to your dad, or mom or you sister, you can blame you dad for not taking my threats seriously. He will meet harm and the outcome will not be good for you. You might never see your dad again.”

Pastor Rick Warren

Pastor Rick Warren’s son Matthew committed suicide about a year ago. Pastor Warren has since launched a ministry that focuses on mental health. It will be:

“…a long-term campaign to launch discussions of mental health in pulpits and pews across the U.S. Friday’s workshops include “Christianity and Depression,” “How to Launch a Support Group and Counseling Ministry in your Church,” “Suicide Prevention: Saving Lives One Community at a Time” and “Food and The Body: Three Steps to Healing Eating Disorders through Community.”

“There is no shame in diabetes, there is no shame in high blood pressure, but why is it that if our brains stop working, there is supposed to be shame in that?”

Mother Kills 4-Year Old

This mother allegedly killed her four-year old son because she thought he was gay.  In a Facebook message, she wrote that she believed her son Zachary was going to be gay:

“He walks and talks like it. Ugh.”

Patton Oswalt as Matthew McConaughey in True Detective

FBI’s Most Wanted

One of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives turns himself in. The MS-13 gang member is accused of killing a young mother and a toddler in a very brutal way.

Man With Schizophrenia Convicted of Murder

David Tarloff, diagnosed with schizophrenia, was found guilty of stabbing a psychologist to death in a botched robbery six years ago.

Mr. Tarloff was attempting to steal $40,000 so that he could free his mother from a nursing home.

This was his third trial. The first trial never made it past jury selection because Tarloff became unstable. The second trial ended in a mistrial because the jury deadlocked.

The defendant reportedly brought a small black bag and a rolling suitcase with him to the scene of the crime. The bags contained knives, a meat cleaver, a hammer, ropes, duct tape, women’s clothing and adult diapers. He waited outside of the victim’s office while she was in a session with a patient. After the session was over, he stabbed her with a knife 15 times in the face, head and chest. When a nearby doctor heard the screams, he tried to save her and was ultimately stabbed by Tarloff.  He survived the attack.

Mr. Tarloff was soon apprehended.

Mr. Tarloff has a long history of severe mental illness. He was admitted to psychiatric hospitals 20 times. His psychiatric record is 10,000 pages long. He underwent ECT (shock therapy) 37 times during a 2012 stay in a psychiatric hospital.

He was obsessed with his delusional interactions with God. He said that God had instructed him to carry out the robbery.

The insanity defense is the most difficult to defend. This quote from a Tarloff juror highlights what the majority of the general public erroneously believes about this defense:

“Right is right, wrong is wrong. If he gets away with it, how many other people out there with schizophrenia could get away with it?”

Juries are not allowed to consider sentencing when deciding a verdict. In cases with insanity pleas, jurors often think that if adjudicated insane, that person will be free. They don’t go free.

Had he been found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would have been held in a psychiatric institution indefinitely and would receive treatment. The guilty verdict means that he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole. He will receive little if any treatment in prison.

A Vice Tweet

Wolf of Wall Street

The real Wolf of Wall Street: Was the movie accurate?

“That stuff was really really accurate, believe it or not. In some aspects it was even worse than that, although I would say I did more quaaludes that cocaine,” says Belfot. “I think that it is fun to have them watch someone snort something.”

Wednesday Mental Health & Criminal Justice Headlines

The FBI’s new most wanted fugitive is Juan Elias Garcia who killed a 19-year-old New York woman and her two-year-old son, execution style. Garcia is allegedly a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS-13).

At the time that he allegedly committed the murders, he was only 17 years old.

Remember the newlywed who pled guilty to pushing her husband off a cliff last summer?  Jordan Graham, 22, was supposed to be sentenced Thursday for the murder of her 25-year-old husband.  That sentencing has been placed on hold because she recently filed a motion to withdraw her plea on the basis that it was “illusory” and a “hollow formality.”

Read an investigation into Pennsylvania’s bleak prisons.

Don’t miss Michael Hall’s excellent story in Texas Monthly on the Lake Waco murders and the possibility that the men convicted of the crime may actually be innocent.

The evolution of the death penalty in one map.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling Wednesday, March 26, 2014 that makes it legal to prohibit someone with a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence from owning a gun.

Think Progress believes that the ruling “could have significant implications in interpreting which state domestic violence laws bar gun possession.”

The Marijuana industry has its first full-time lobbyist.

Eight days have passed and there is no sign of missing eight-year old Relisha Rudd.

The police believe that a 51-year-old janitor of a homeless shelter, where the child had lived, killed his wife and now has the young girl in his possession.

The Washington Post traces Relisha’s difficult life.

The Jodi Arias Trial: The Heinousness of Her Crime

When considering the heinousness of a crime, what are the contributing factors? If surveys were conducted I imagine that there would be a variety of responses. Jodi Arias committed a crime that many people regard as heinous.balance

Murder is an evil act but some murders seem more evil than others. For instance, one can understand an individual killing another in self-defense, because his or her life was being threatened. It’s much more difficult to forgive an individual who killed for the sake of killing, or doing so because of some other human shortcoming, such as greed or jealousy. … Read more

Jodi Arias Cross Examination Day 2 (Video)

Today was the second day of the cross examination of Ms. Arias. She again spent the entire day on the stand. She was difficult and argumentative, just as she was on her first day of cross examination. She did not smirk today. Perhaps she was warned about that by her attorneys. The prosecutor was better on to her “words games” today than he was on the first day of his cross examination. Mr. Martinez explored every area that Jodi discussed. He made her give yes or no answers. He did not let her “off the hook” on anything she said.

Each day that Jodi is on the stand we learn more about what she is like. We are seeing her personality. She is difficult. She does not want to give in, she wants control. She wants it her way. She does not want to be seen in a negative light. She attempts to manipulate the words of prosecutor. She continuously attempts to take control but the prosecutor is beating her at her own game.

Thanks to David Lohr (true crime writer), you can watch the “best parts” of Day 2 of the cross examination. Watch below.

The Rush to Diagnose The Colorado Shooter

Dave Cullen, author of the New York Times bestseller Columbine was part of a roundtable discussion this morning on MSNBC with Chris Hayes. The topic was the media coverage of the latest mass shooting. When conducting research for his book, Cullen reviewed the early news reports regarding the “facts” about the two shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. In the several days after the shooting, the media interviewed many acquaintances of the two boys. What Cullen ultimately realized was that those early “facts” about Eric and Dylan, (proffered mainly by acquaintances) what essentially became the media narrative, were untrue. Despite that media narrative being untrue, many people still continue to believe those “facts.”

The same thing could easily happen in this case.

Another interesting element of the Columbine shooting media aftermath, mentioned by Cullen, was the leading questions asked by reporters to the acquaintances being interviewed about Eric and Dylan. Those leading questions included (paraphrasing): “we heard Eric and Dylan were loners, is this true? We heard that they were part of the “trench coat mafia,” what do you know about this? We heard that they were bullied, what did you see?” and so forth. Those leading questions by reporters could have easily swayed those being interviewed into giving an answer that they may not have given otherwise.

The Psychological Status of the Colorado Shooter

At this time, we know virtually nothing about the shooters’ mental health history. News outlets are reporting, based mainly on interviews with acquaintances, that Holmes was quiet and shy. With regard to a psychiatric diagnosis, it is impossible to know what diagnosis he has, if any. Only after extensive evaluations and interviews, with trained mental health professionals, could a reliable diagnosis be determined. Short of that, every diagnosis is simply guess.

In time, we will learn a great deal of information about the shooter’s mental health status. Being quiet and shy, liking Guitar Hero, and possibly setting up a profile on Adult Friend Finder are not the actions and behavior of any identifiable mental illness. In the meantime, resist the urge to diagnose the shooter. Critically evaluate the media’s message and don’t jump to conclusions based on a very limited amount of information that is currently available.

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