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Category Archives: Forensic Psychiatry

Crime and Science Radio: Sex, Lies, and Crime: An Interview With Sex Crimes Expert and Best-Selling Author Linda Fairstein

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Join Jan Burke and I as we discuss sex crimes with best-selling author Linda Fairstein.

Linda Fairstein is an honors graduate of Vassar College and the University of Virginia School of Law, a former prosecutor, and one of America’s foremost legal experts on crimes of violence against women and children. For three decades, she served in the office of the New York County District Attorney, where she was Chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit for twenty-five years. She was the lead attorney in the famous the Robert Chambers “Preppy Murder” case. She is an internationally bestselling author of a series of crime novels, which feature Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper. Linda is also the author of a non-fiction work. Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She is a sought-after media consultant on the issue of the criminal justice system and crimes of violence against women for major networks such as CNN, MSNBC, and cable affiliates. She continues to practice law as a pro bono representative of victims of violence. She and her husband Justin Feldman live in Manhattan and on Martha’s Vineyard.

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LISTEN: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2014/02/21/crime-and-science-radio-with-linda-fairstein

LINKS:

Linda Fairstein Website: http://www.lindafairstein.com

Linda Fairstein Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/LindaFairstein

Linda on Twitter: @lindafairstein

Alex Cooper Series on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/series/43692-alexandra-cooper

USA Today Interview (2013): http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2013/08/16/linda-fairstein-central-park-sex-crimes/2656599/

Sex-assault Case Puts Focus on Police Unit, Not Quite as Seen on TV: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/19/nyregion/strauss-kahn-case-puts-focus-on-real-special-victims-squad.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Inside the NYPD’s Special Victims Division: http://www.newsweek.com/inside-nypds-special-victims-division-67761

New York’s DA’s Office Trial Division: http://manhattanda.org/trial-division

Crime Library: A Killing in Central Park: The Preppy Murder Case: http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/not_guilty/park/4.html

Jennifer Levin’s Mother Remembers “Preppy Murder” Case: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/09/02/jennifer-levins-mother-remembers-preppy-murder-case/

Murderpedia: Robert Chambers: http://murderpedia.org/male.C/c/chambers-robert.htm

Children Of The Night: http://childrenofthenight.org

Sex Slaves: The Psychology of Mastery: http://www.crimelibrary.com/criminal_mind/sexual_assault/sex_slaves/1_index.html

Joyful Heart Foundation

RAINN: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network

Cleveland Plain Dealer Series on Ohio’s sexual assault kit backlog investigations

Houston Chronicle article re Houston elimination sexual assault kit backlog

The Guardian’s story on Detroit Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s fight to investigate 11,000 abandoned sexual assault kits

Contra Costa Times: “California bill calls for evidence in unsolved, neglected rape cases to get attention”

Inside the Lives of American Sex Slaves: National Geographic

Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking

 

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Does a PTSD Vaccine Exist?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an increasingly recognized disorder not only among returning military personnel but in others who have suffered ongoing highly stressful situations. The various forms of psychotherapy that have been used for this disorder have led to mixed results and the numerous medications available have side effects that often prevent their use. Not to mention that they don’t always work.

But what if there was a vaccine that eliminated or reduced the effects of PTSD? One that lessened the fight or flight response these memories often illicit?

A group at MIT believes they might have developed just such a treatment. They discovered that a stomach hormone called ghrelin, which has been implicated in helping generate anxiety responses, is released during highly stressful situations, and the more stressful the situation, the more hormone released. The new “vaccine” tends to block the receptors for this hormone and therefore lessen its effects. It is important to note, that the goal of this treatment is not to alter the person’s personality or memories but rather to blunt the psychological and physiological responses to these stress and panic-producing memories. Hopefully with further study this new form of treatment will pan out.

 

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Stress Fracture, the first in my Dub Walker thriller series, dealt with PTSD and new drugs for its treatment. Not vaccines but rather spinoffs of current forms of treatment. Of course the drug in my fictional story is itself fictional but new drugs are continually being produced for this disorder. If this “vaccine” does indeed prove to be effective and with acceptable side effects, the need for developing new drugs would be decreased. We’ll see.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Forensic Psychiatry, Medical Issues

 

The Writers Forensics Blog: 100 Top Websites to Bookmark

The crew over at FornesicScienceDegrees.org have listed The Writers Forensics Blog as one of their Top 100 Websites to Bookmark, which they describe as a “list of great sites to present practical, real-world information on the subject.” Many great sources here.

Thanks. I’m flattered.

 

 

Hemingway’s Brain: Creativity: Nature or Nurture?

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The argument has continued for hundreds of years. Is creativity inborn or learned? Or a bit of both? Same can be asked about intelligence, musical talent, math wizardry, and just about every other human skill. 

Kenneth Heilman and his colleagues at Cornell University believe they have nudged nearer the answer. It’s called visual-spatial divergent thinking. Big words meaning, more or less, thinking outside the box. Interesting research and an even more interesting concept. 

 

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ORIGINAL PAPER

 

Pillow Talk: Post-Sex Confessions Can Sink Your Perfect Murder

Pillow talk can undo your perfect murder. Seems that folks like to confess, or at least tell secrets, after sex. Researchers blame it on Oxytocin—the “love hormone.” Funny, I don’t remember it being called that in med school. Regardless, it just might lower inhibitions and make folks gabby.

 

Pegye Bechler

Pegye Bechler

 

An example can be found in the famous 1997 Pegye Bechler murder here in Orange County, CA. Husband Eric apparently decided to kill his wife and make it look like a boating fatality. His story: he was on a bodyboard, Pegye towing him behind their boat, when a rogue wave knocked him off the board. When he surfaced, the boat was going in circles with no Pegye in sight. The wave had knocked her off the boat and she had drowned. Two problems: Pegye was an excellent swimmer and the water was dead calm that day.

 

Eric Bechler

Eric Bechler

 

Still, even though the police doubted Eric’s story, they had no witnesses, no body, and no real evidence. Eric walked. For a while anyway. He then got a new girlfriend, model and Baywatch actress, Tina New. Seems that one evening after a round of sex and a dose of Ecstasy, Eric confessed to Tina, saying he had killed Pegye with a dumbbell and dumped her body in Newport Bay. At first she dismissed his story but later decided to go to the police. A sting was arranged and she managed to record his confession. Eric was ultimately convicted and given a life sentence.

 

CRIME AND SCIENCE RADIO: Dr. Katherine Ramsland Interview: The Devil’s Dozen: What Makes the Bad Guys Tick?

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1-4-13: Dr. Katherine Ramsland Interview: The Devil’s Dozen: What Makes the Bad Guys Tick?

Join DP Lyle and Dr. Katherine Ramsland for a discussion of bad guys, who they are, what they do, and why they do what they do. Several cases from her excellent book THE DEVIL’S DOZEN will be discussed.

Dr. Katherine Ramsland

Dr. Katherine Ramsland

 

LISTENhttp://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2013/10/22/crime-and-science-radio–the-devils-dozen

LINKS:

Katherine Ramsland Website: http://www.katherineramsland.com/Katherineramsland/Welcome.html

Katherine Ramsland Blog: http://www.katherineramsland.com/Katherineramsland/Blog.html

Psychology Today: Shadow Boxing: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shadow-boxing

BOOK LINKS:

The Devil’s Dozen: How Cutting-Edge Forensics Took Down 12 Notorious Serial Killers: http://www.amazon.com/The-Devils-Dozen-Cutting-Edge-Forensics/dp/0425226034

The Sex Beast (new): http://www.amazon.com/The-Beast-Crimescape-Katherine-Ramsland-ebook/dp/B00FJCJ938/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1381940721&sr=1-1&keywords=sex+beast+ramsland

The Ivy League Killer: http://www.amazon.com/The-Ivy-League-Killer-Crimescape-ebook/dp/B007W2E05U/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1381940776&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=Ivey+League+Killer+ramsland

The Mind of a Murderer: http://www.amazon.com/The-Mind-Murderer-Privileged-Violence-ebook/dp/B007JI68XO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1381940839&sr=1-1&keywords=Mind+of+a+Murderer

ARTICLE LINKS:

Evil, Part One: Its Manifestations: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/psychology/evil1/1.html

Evil, Part Two: The Heart of Darkness-Reframing Evil: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/psychology/evil2/1.html

Criminal Profiling: Part 1 History and Method: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/profiling/history_method/index.html

Profiling, Interactive: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/profiling/profiling_2/index.html

Criminal Profiling: the Reality Behind the Myth: http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug04/criminal.aspx

Geographic Profiling: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/profiling/geographic/1.html

Offender Profiling, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offender_profiling

Female Offenders, Crime Library: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/psychology/female_offenders/1.html

Women Who Kill, Part 1: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/women/women1/1.html

Women Who KIll, Part 2: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/women/women_killers2/1.html

Arthur Shawcross, the Genessee River Strangler: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/predators/shawcross/river_6.html

Necrophiles, The Crime Library: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/notorious/necrophiles/index_1.html

Bite Marks as Evidence to Convict: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/forensics/bitemarks/1.html

Haunted Crime Scenes: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/classics/haunted_crimescenes/1.html

Team Killers: Male: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/partners/team_male/1.html

Forensic Toxicology: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/forensics/toxicology/index.html

Sex Slaves: The Psychology of Mastery: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/sexual_assault/sex_slaves/1_index.html

The Vampire Killers: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/weird/vampires/1.html

Serial Killer Groupies: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/psychology/s_k_groupies/index.html

Stalkers: The Psychological Terrorist: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/psychology/stalkers/1.html

 

Life Imitating Art? Murder or Accident?

It’s been said that art imitates life and that often life imitates art? Is the death of “spy” Gareth Williams a murder or a tragic case of autoerotic asphyxia? Is it a true mystery anticipated by an author’s question?

 

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The Story:

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/police-spy-bag-probably-died-accident

The Question:

http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2011/09/18/q-and-a-can-a-murder-be-staged-to-look-like-an-accidental-death-from-autoerotic-asphyxia/

Two other posts on autoerotic asphyxia:

http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/autoerotic-asphyxia-a-very-bizarre-case/

http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/autoerotic-asphyxia-redux-david-carradine/

 

 

Dr. Michael Welner on Mass Shooters

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My friend forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner speaks on the psychology that drives mass shooters:

http://forensicpanel.com/media_center/analysis_of_issues.html?news_id=22926

 

Surgery For Criminal Tendencies

The belief that altering the brain and its function can either lead to or ameliorate criminal tendencies has been around for a long time. It might date back thousands of years to when trepanning was used. Skulls found in Central America tend to point to the use of this technique by the Mayans and the Aztecs and some have postulated that it might’ve been done to treat madness or other behavioral abnormalities. Of course it could have been part of religious ritual also or even used for medical treatment after head injury. We just don’t know for sure.

 

Trepanning involves the drilling of holes through the skull

Trepanning involves the drilling of holes through the skull

 

In the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in February, 1913, the case of a criminal who underwent surgery to correct his behavior was reported. It seems that a young man who was incarcerated for his criminal activity had been a normal child until approximately age 14 when he suffered a head injury. After that he became “morose, sullen and a thief.” Examination revealed that he had a “thickening underneath the scalp at the point where he had been injured.” Surgery was then performed to remove this section of bone and apparently his behavior immediately changed. It changed so much that the governor offered him parole and he was released.

Unfortunately, recidivism being what it is, he returned to his criminal ways and was again arrested. The article goes on to point out that during the Civil War there were many soldiers who suffered penetrating head wounds and yet only rarely did they suffer from “perversions of character.”

Indeed there have been cases where individuals have had brain tumors and their personality has changed dramatically, even to the point of violent acting out. In such circumstances removal of the brain tumor has often resulted in a resolution of the personality change. But the search for a surgical solution to social traffic behavior remains elusive and indeed there is no evidence that any procedure makes much difference. At least as far as we know in 2013. Who knows what the future will hold.

 

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Perhaps the most famous use of a surgical technique to alter behavior comes from the fictional world. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the movie as well as the excellent book by Ken Kesey, is the story of McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a man who fights the system and is determined to be a threat to society, or at least the inner workings of the mental hospital where he is housed, and is ultimately subjected to a personality altering frontal lobotomy. The fact that this type of surgery was also going on in the real world is well-documented.

 

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Facial Expressions and Emotions

Ekman Facial Expressions

Ekman Facial Expressions

 

Can you tell when your spouse or child or friend is angry? Or scared? Or worried? Can you simply look at their face and determine what they’re feeling? What emotions are in play?

Most people would say yes and indeed we have been taught that much of communication is nonverbal, meaning facial expressions, hand gestures, body language, and other cues that we constantly receive from others. Nearly half a century ago psychologist Paul Ekman “proved” that facial expressions revealed six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, and surprise. He further said that these expressions crossed all racial and cultural lines so that each human expressed emotions in their face in exactly the same way. Psychologists and police have used this technique for many years.

But is that true?

Lisa Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, thinks not. Here’s a fascinating article from Boston Magazine that discusses the uses and abuses of facial expressions in determining emotions:

 

 
 
 
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