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SUNSHINE​ STATE Coming May, 2019

Just got the cover art for SUNSHINE STATE, the next Jake Longly thriller.
Coming May 21, 2019 from OCEANVIEW.

 

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In SUNSHINE STATE, Jake Longly and girlfriend Nicole Jamison are confronted with the most bizarre case yet. Serial killer Billy Wayne Baker now denies that two of the seven murders he confessed to doing are actually his work. An anonymous benefactor, who believes Billy Wayne’s denials, hires Longly Investigations to prove Billy Wayne right. Yet, Billy Wayne confessed. Not only did he have the motive, means, and opportunity, but also DNA connects him to each murder.

Jake, Nicole, Ray, and Pancake travel to the small Gulf coast town of Pine Key, where three of the murders occurred. The local police, the FBI, and the state prosecutor and crime lab each did their jobs, uncovered overwhelming evidence of Billy Wayne’s guilt, and even extracted a full confession. Is Billy Wayne simply trying to tweak the system, garnering another fifteen minutes of fame? Is it all a game to him? But, if he’s being truthful, is there a killer out there getting away with murder? Who? Why? Most importantly, how?

Nothing is as it seems in the Sunshine State.

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Posted by on August 16, 2018 in Writing

 

Criminal Mischief: Show #1 Murder Motives Notes

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If you haven’t yet listened to my new podcast series, CRIMINAL MISCHIEF: THE ART AND SCIENCE OF CRIME FICTION on the Authors On The Air Global Radio Network,  then jump on board. Here are the notes for Show #1 as well as links to listen to the show and to follow future shows. Hope it proves fun and helpful to your storytelling.

Murder Motives Notes

Types of Crimes: theft, burglary, robbery, embezzlement, assault, rape, ID theft/ransom, extortion, forgery, arson, kidnapping, DUI, drug dealing, trafficking, pimping/prostitution

Motives for Murder:

Financial – – insurance, inheritance, business takeovers, avoidance of alimony
Property disputes
Revenge
Political
Cults & Religions
Murder for hire
Empathy and sympathy
Crimes of passion
Domestic
Protect self-image or secrets
To protect others
Blackmail
To cover another crime
Social and hate crimes
Sex, jealousy, obsession
Mental illness – – delusions and hallucinations
Drugs and alcohol

Listen to the Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/1-murder-motives

Follow the shows on FB: https://www.facebook.com/criminalmischiefwithDPLyle/

See all shows here: http://www.dplylemd.com/criminal-mischief.html

 

Guest Blogger: Dennis Palumbo: EROTOMANIA

EROTOMANIA: When the bad guy’s motive is a delusion

By Dennis Palumbo

Nietzsche once wrote, “There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”

Perhaps. Then again, Nietzsche never met Sebastian Maddox, the villain in my latest suspense thriller, Head Wounds. It’s the fifth in my series about Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist and trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh police.

What makes the brilliant, tech-savvy Maddox so relentlessly dangerous is that he’s in the grip of a rare delusion called erotomania, also known as De Clerambault’s Syndrome.

Simply put, erotomania is a disorder in which a person–in this case, Maddox–falsely believes that another person is in love with him, deeply, unconditionally, and usually secretly. The latter because this imaginary relationship must often be hidden due to some social, personal, or professional circumstances. Perhaps the object of this romantic obsession is married, or a superior at work. Sometimes it’s a famous athlete or media celebrity.

Not that these seeming roadblocks diminish the delusion. They can even provide a titillating excitement. Often, a person with erotomania believes his or her secret admirer is sending covert signals of their mutual love: wearing certain colors whenever a situation puts them together in public or doing certain gestures whose meaning is only known to the two of them. Some even believe they’re receiving telepathic messages from their imagined beloved.

What makes the delusion even more insidious is that the object of this romantic obsession, once he or she learns of it, is helpless to do anything about it. They can strenuously and repeatedly rebuff the delusional lover, denying that there’s anything going on between them, but nothing dissuades the other’s ardent devotion.

I know of one case wherein the recipient of these unwanted declarations of love was finally forced to call the police and obtain a restraining order. Even then, her obsessed lover said he understood that this action was a test of his love. A challenge from her to prove the constancy and sincerity of his feelings.

As psychoanalyst George Atwood once said of any delusion, “it’s a belief whose validity is not open to discussion.”

This is especially true of erotomania. People exhibiting its implacable symptoms can rarely be shaken from their beliefs.

Like Parsifal in his quest for the Holy Grail, nothing dissuades them from their mission.

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In Head Wounds, Sebastian Maddox’s crusade–when thwarted in his desires–turns quite deadly and requires all of Rinaldi’s resourcefulness to save someone he cares about. In real life, the treatment options for the condition are limited to a combination of therapy and medication, usually antipsychotics like pimozide. If the symptoms appear to stem from an underlying cause, such as bipolar disorder, the therapeutic approach would also involve medication, typically lithium.

What makes erotomania so intriguing as a psychological condition, and so compelling in an antagonist in a thriller, is the delusional person’s ironclad conviction–the unshakeable certainty of his or her belief.

Nonetheless, as philosopher Charles Renouvier reminds us, “Plainly speaking, there is no such thing as certainty. There are only people who are certain.”

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BIO: Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery MagazineThe Strand and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press). His series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, and the latest, Head Wounds, all from Poisoned Pen Press), feature psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, a trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police. For more info, visit http://www.dennispalumbo.com 

 

Crime and Science Radio Rewind: Judging Science: Evidence and Courts with Marcia Clark

 

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Courtesy of SUSPENSE MAGAZINE May/June/July 2018

Suspense Magazine May June July 2018 Cover Online copy

Marcia Clark: Judging Evidence

Interview by Jan Burke

Listen to the Interview

Former Prosecutor Marcia Clark is a person most people know. Whether you are an avid reader of thrillers and have been enjoying Marcia’s fantastic character, Rachel Knight; or you are one who is interested in the world of crime and punishment; or even if you are one who loves sitting in front of TruTV to watch high-profile cases play out in the courtroom, Marcia Clark has become a household name in one way or another. 

Recently, Marcia sat down with Jan Burke, host of Crime & Science Radio, to have an in-depth discussion regarding all areas of law and order. From the rules of evidence to some of the ways forensic science is used in the plots of her riveting legal thrillers, everything is covered.

Jan Burke (J.B.): Thank you for joining us, Marcia. Today we’re going to talk about some of your experiences as an attorney, your books, and the perceptions and misperceptions people have about the law, evidence, and science in the courtroom. To begin, how old were you when you decided to become an attorney?

Marcia Clark (M.C.): I did not start out to be one, actually. I took Poli Sci as an undergrad and soon found out the degree was basically worthless…

J.B.: I majored in the lucrative field of history, so I completely understand.

M.C.: I thought I was going to work in the State Department in the foreign office, which is what I wanted to do. And because I spoke various languages, I thought they would find that useful. Instead, they asked me if I could type. They really don’t like girls. I know a woman who works in the State Department now who says they still don’t like girls, so that’s interesting…

I floated around for a year or two and wound up saying: “Lawyer. I think that works.” And I applied at the last minute to law school and took the LSAT, hung over. I wasn’t exactly your most devoted fan of the law, but I became one.

J.B.: So you weren’t one of those people who in second grade stood up and said, “Objection!” to their teachers?

M.C.: I said all kinds of things to my teachers, actually, but not that one. That would have been a nicer one. But that’s a story for another day, Jan. When I was a kid I wanted to write. I liked writing, I liked acting, but I didn’t have faith in my ability to earn money doing either one of those, so…

J.B.: Which law school did you attend? 

M.C.: Southwestern, here in Los Angeles.

J.B.: And ended up working in defense?

M.C.: Yes, I started out as a criminal defense attorney. No way was I going to work for “THE MAN.” The thought of being a prosecutor never even entered my head. I clerked for a defense firm for about two years and then I worked as an associate for about a year and a half. When it came to the point where it seemed I was always defending violent criminals, I realized that I’d rather prosecute. In fact, I felt like I did not want to practice law anymore at all unless I was a prosecutor. So when I went in for my interview, the D.A. at the time was John Van de Kamp, I told him that I thought I was done with law if I couldn’t be a prosecutor. 

J.B.: So, you’ve worked in this field for quite a while and created Rachel Knight in your books. In what ways does the real life of a D.A. differ from what you see in books and on the screen?

M.C.: One thing for sure, is when it comes to books or TV, we all cut out the boring parts. Writing motions, doing research…not really sure how you could take that and make it exciting. Reading. Yeah, she’s still reading…. Typing. Yeah, she’s still typing…. We cut out all of the necessary but boring routine stuff. 

A D.A. is out in the field more, especially when speaking of the special trials unit. The thing with special trials is that we pick up the case the day the body is found, which means we’re out on the streets with the cops and detectives a lot. We interview all witnesses on every case. I never took a case to trial without talking to all witnesses first—outside; where they were—especially at crime scenes if I could, so they could walk me through, show me what they saw, where they saw it from, etc. That usually put me in a better position in court. 

J.B.: That is a whole different level, the special trials unit for the L.A. County D.A.’s Office. I’m assuming this is a division that not every jurisdiction has?

M.C.: Or even every prosecutor. In L.A., the thing unique about special trials is we do that kind of vertical prosecution from the bottom up. Because they handle all the high-profile, complex cases, they need that time to go out in the field and get that information. Most prosecutors get the ordinary cases very shortly before the jury trial commences, which counts for the pressures that are most common. Other jurisdictions do it differently. I’ve heard New York actually does have, as a matter of routine, the prosecutors going out in the field with the detectives. I don’t know that’s true, but since everyone does things differently I would imagine the bigger offices where there is more crime would have less opportunity to do that. Because it would require an office with a lot of prosecutors to be able to do this kind of prosecution. The D.A.’s office in L.A. is the biggest in the world. Makes sense, the county is huge. If it were a state it would be the 7th largest in the U.S. 

J.B.: What would make it a special trials case? Would it be based on the high-profile and complexity of the case?

M.C.: Cases that will attract a lot of media attention. The Menendez brothers, for example, was a special trials case. Phil Spector. Those are the kinds of things that rate being a special trials case.

J.B.: We all have seen everything from L.A. Law to Law & Order, not to mention reading the legal thrillers out there. Can you name a few of the errors and clichés in those that make you go nuts. Such as, watching a legal drama where everyone in the room is riveted, yet you break out laughing because of the blatant error? 

M.C.: You know what you and I have laughed most about is the forensic stuff they do. Like finding an eyelash in a field that can be traced to just one person. And I say, “Really? Out there in the field with the alfalfa you found an eyelash? Wow!” 

They will also have those prosecutors arguing with the judge about what piece of evidence should or should not come in. You don’t really get to do that. They also strut around the courtroom which in real life most judges would never allow you to do. (Although some will, as we know.) There’s a certain level of showmanship for the sake of drama where an attorney will argue with a judge, whereas in real life the judge would say settle down. Not to mention the rulings. Judges offer rulings on TV that I wish in my wildest dreams I could get in.

J.B.: One of the things I’ve noticed with both the forensic science shows and courtroom dramas is the amazing amount of science that has not passed any rule of evidence I know about, getting in. I don’t even know if most people are aware of the rules of evidence. Not to mention the rules about what you can do to an arrestee to get a confession. 

M.C.: Exactly. You really aren’t allowed to beat them with phone books. That cracks me up on TV, having cops out there beating the suspect up and getting a statement that will later nail him in court and all will be fine. Which, of course, would never happen; that is the anomaly. Cops, by and large, do not do things like that and do not get away with them if they do. You need to read them their rights, you need to get a valid waiver because you can’t get the statement in without it. And on TV the statements always come in so clean. The suspect admits or denies. Easy. But in real life, if you get the statement, a confession is a “yes, but…” An approach avoidance. “I did this but I didn’t do that.” Which means the best thing for the prosecutor is not to use it at all. Unless you think you can’t prove the case without it. They don’t show reality and I think if they did, and what the prosecutor has to do to overcome, it would make for a better story. 

Then there’s the other thing you were talking about, the rules of scientific evidence. You don’t just get to put in scientific evidence because you want to. It has to pass muster. You usually have to have a hearing if it’s something new in the field. In the very beginning, when DNA was new, you had to have these incredibly long hearings where you had to show that the DNA testing methods were accepted in the scientific community. It was no easy thing to prove. So there are quite a few hoops to jump through before this stuff gets into evidence. 

J.B.: The person in a show who has discovered some new way of processing something, like photo-manipulations, really drives me crazy. The court certainly wouldn’t like you bringing in doctored photos.

M.C.: And they won’t let you. Not to mention, the defense will object. Even if it’s just a blowup, the defense can and will look at it to see if it’s distorted in some way. You don’t just get to do whatever you want.

J.B.: In the real world there are these tests that must be done on evidence, so the judge is going to ask you to bring in experts. I assume the defense gets to bring in their experts to say something is not reliable or accepted?

M.C.: Yes, each side gets to bring in their experts and the judge must make a ruling; basically saying it is or is not reliable, or accepted by the community, or meets the standard for admission into evidence, which requires testimony from both sides before a ruling can be made. Towards the end of DNA acceptance, the defense was more and more getting into the position of, “Never mind calling the witness, it’s not worth it. It will just come in.” And they would just kind of make a record by cross-examining the prosecution’s expert. We’re at the point now when the DNA evidence does all come in, but there will be new methods of DNA testing that will require the same expert testimony before its allowed in, in the future. PCR testing was relatively new when we were working on Simpson and that required all kinds of hearings: you were allowed to use it to exclude people but not to identify. 

J.B.: I think this week in the news they were talking about the third trial of some individual and how they had an expert at “touch DNA” who has apparently testified sixty times. That may sound like a lot, but when you look at the whole country, that’s not many trials. I think that is one of those areas when we speak about DNA and how small of an amount you actually need. I think a lot of people don’t understand forensic science. Things change. You can always find yourself feeling very sure about something in one decade, and yet a decade later it changes. I know the FBI goes through this with everything from hair evidence to bite marks; they even once thought fingerprints could be challenged?

M.C.: They don’t get too far with that, however, because proving two people have identical fingerprints is quite a reach. And fingerprinting has been around so long that if we really had a problem with people having identical fingerprints, we would have seen this happen by now. The fingerprint databases are so huge; they’re vast, in fact, and we aren’t finding people with the same fingerprints.

But with DNA being so new and the databases not nearly as vast, although they’re growing every day, the biggest challenge used to be that the databases were so small you could not justify that no two people could have the same DNA. Of course, as time moves forward, I think we are becoming certain of that fact. But the databases are still not nearly as big as the fingerprint databases.

J.B.: I think a lot of people have, for better or worse, watched trials on TV and probably noticed that there will be experts that contradict each other. How do you choose your forensic expert, or do you live with the guy the lab sends over to you?

M.C.: Usually you have to live with the guy they send over to you. LAPD has a crime lab and the one who is assigned to you is the one you get. The only time you might get to choose outside that box is when their tech has a problem, can’t testify, or it’s a heavy-duty case. Not necessarily a high-profile case, but one that offers serious charges like murder. In that case, they might let you find another expert to back up what you have already done. Typically evidence goes straight to LAPD, especially now that they have a crime lab with a DNA lab up and running. Back when I began, before Simpson, we had to use Cellmark because the LAPD did not have a crime lab and were not set up to do DNA testing. Because there was such a big challenge in the Simpson case, we ended up sending our samples to not only Cellmark but also the Department of Justice. At one point, even before that, I wanted to agree to let the defense expert, Ed Blake, do the testing. I knew he was a good guy and we could share all of these results. But the defense didn’t want to share these results…

J.B.: Mmm. How funny…

M.C.: Typically, though, your jurisdiction has their own place. I think in the south part of California, in Riverside, they use Biotech. But whether it’s a private lab or one associated with the police station, you can reach outside that and get other experts—but only in very unique cases. 

J.B.: When we see defendants in courtroom dramas, they are quite often suave, well-behaved, in suits. But I would assume they are not people who represent the “average bear” brought to trial. Tell us, in your experience, the criminal mind and demeanor of the types of people who came before you, more often than not.

M.C.: I love that, too, that they always have the cool, charming types. Not to say that type of defendant doesn’t appear, but it’s rare. That kind of defendant is normally a sociopath. They are not necessarily a serial killer, but they commit crimes for pleasure, fun, and sometimes for profit. That kind of defendant is more in control of the instrument than your typical defendant. Typical defendant is: Johnny tells Eddie, let’s go rob that liquor store, and then they grab someone’s gun and go do it. And then, BOOM! They get locked up immediately because they’re idiots and wind up in court. Typical of these defendants is poor impulse control, and that poor impulse frequently finds its way into the courtroom. They’ll give hard looks to witnesses, pop off and say things in front of the jury, yell at their lawyers, and basically do things that are bad for them. 

J.B.: In a book or on TV you have to create a worthy antagonist. Not much of a story if it’s the Johnny and Eddie type.

M.C.: People ask me all the time about my books, “Are these the cases you handled?” I always say that if I told you the real story of real cases the book would be over in two pages. They went to rob a liquor store. BOOM! Story over. 

J.B.: Let’s talk about legal terms. People hear words that have legal meaning that they misunderstand sometimes. (For writers out there, I recommend getting yourself a great legal dictionary.) For example, I see a lot of confusion between homicide and murder and between murder and manslaughter.

M.C.: And that is a really common one. Homicide means that you have an indication of criminal agency. Somebody died at the hands of another, but whether what they did falls under first degree, second degree, or homicide is a separate issue. Homicide just means that a criminal agency is involved in the murder; someone is dead and didn’t get there naturally. If this is not true, then it’s deemed a suicide. If it is a homicide, you then move to the question of what kind/type of crime it was. Was it murder? First degree means it was a premeditated murder; there was some planning before the act was done. But as the jury instructions will tell you, planning does not require any particular length of time. If I pick up a gun and say, “I’m going to shoot you,” and then do it, that’s premeditation. In that one breath, that’s enough; first degree is an intentional killing and doesn’t require any particular length of time. 

Second degree can be a rash impulse. The kind of murder that occurs in the course of a fight or argument, which is not premeditated. Then you have manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is a killing where there is some type of mitigating influence. By that I mean, something that makes it less than murder. We are all familiar with killing in the heat of passion. For example: If you are in a bar fight and someone throws a bottle at you and you hit him over the head with a bottle and kill him, that’s most likely involuntary manslaughter. The other way you can receive manslaughter is if you believe, even if that belief is unreasonable, that you must defend yourself. Such as the George Zimmerman case. The theory behind this form of manslaughter is someone is threatening you and you honestly believe you need to defend yourself with force. But if it’s not a reasonable belief; there is no justification. This is called unreasonable belief in the need for self-defense. That, too, can get you manslaughter. Now if you have reasonable belief, that’s a complete excuse and you are not guilty of anything.

J.B.: And will you be the one collecting the evidence and coming to that conclusion? Who determines the charges to be filed? 

M.C.: The decision on what to file is also something specific to the special trials unit. The ordinary cases go through what is called the “Complaints Division” downtown. In branch court, they’re called filing deputies. All they do is when the cops bring in their reports and say, “I want to file charges against Joe Smith,” the filing deputies look at the reports and decide what they have there and decide what charges to file. When you are in a specific unit, like special trials, the detectives come right to me and say what they want to file against Joe Smith, such as, we think he’s good for murder. I review the reports, what we have, and I decide whether or not I agree with the detectives and then file whatever charges I see.

J.B.: I’m assuming this can lead to tension? When the cops believe they have a case every time?

M.C.: Not all of them. Some are reasonable. They will come in and say it’s a little skinny now but review the reports and tell me what you think I’m missing. Frequently, in those situations, I do a reject pending. Which means I reject the case pending further investigation, but that means it’s not really rejected. I’m just saying go out and get more stuff. If you’re working with reasonable police officers and you’re reasonable, it’s fine. 

On some occasions you will have someone chomping at the bit, snorting fire out of his nose, etc., who states: “I have Joe Smith for murder and you have to file this.” I have gotten into it on one or two occasions with detectives. Once they even went over my head and went to the big honcho and said, “I think we’ve got it and she’s wrong.” They backed me but, needless to say, it was a very uncomfortable time and a lot of tension and anger. They come in believing in their case and they should! Unless they come in and say they just need to show they’re working with a D.A. and looking for a reject pending which they’re fine with, that’s another story. But if they come in really believing there should be a specific filing, then they ought to be behind their own case. That’s why you need checks and balances. You can’t just have one person making all the decisions which is why it’s good to have a prosecutor on the outside saying, “Look, if I take this to trial the defense is going to say you’re missing x, y, and z.” For example, your eyewitness isn’t strong. Or he’s a gangbanger from the rival gang of the defendant who will say anything to nail the defendant, etc. Then they need to go find me corroboration.

J.B.: Getting back to some of those terms. What does reasonable doubt really mean? I think we’ve reached a point where people think anything can be proven with physical evidence. And that this evidence is always available, testing is available, and if you’re not bringing it in then you didn’t look hard enough for it.

M.C.: You’re right, it is a very big problem. You have these cases that get highly publicized with tons of evidence. There’s hair, blood, DNA, saliva—everything you can imagine and you have it all. That’s cool. But it is not common. First, not all crimes provide evidence; a burglary very seldom leaves you more than fingerprints and you rarely get those. Or you’re relying on an eye witness living down the street who got a glimpse of someone…good luck with that one. Juries have a skewed look at things. They believe we should always have DNA and a wealth of physical evidence. And maybe someday we will. Maybe one day evidence collection will reach the point where we will be able to get electro-static footprints out of dust, and all that cool stuff, but we’re not there yet. Most cases don’t provide such things and as a result juries wind up equating lack of physical evidence with reasonable doubt. 

But, here’s the thing, Jan. I handle criminal appeals across the state of California from the northern tip to the southern tip now, so I have a better chance to see, overall, what juries are doing than I ever did before. I see them convicting without physical evidence all the time. But in other cases, juries may come in and decide they simply like a defendant more than they like the prosecution or the victim. I just handled a case, which was quite interesting, where they charged three defendants with murder and the three defendants came off better than the victims did. The jury ended up acquitting two and convicting the third on manslaughter. Ordinarily, a case like that where the victim is unarmed and the defendant went and got the weapon used, would have led to murder convictions across the board. But this jury did not cotton to the victim and it went the other way. That wasn’t about physical evidence or lack thereof at all. 

That’s why reasonable doubt bothers me because it is a very elastic term. The problem is a jury can say reasonable doubt when really, objectively speaking, isn’t what they’re doing. What they are doing is converting “reasonable doubt” to “reason to doubt.” People find a reason to doubt that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. Apocalypse tonight and the sun doesn’t rise. That’s a reason to doubt. But is it reasonable? No. But that’s what happens with juries which is sometimes why you end up with odd verdicts. They come out and say there’s reasonable doubt and the people watching say, “What? There was a reason.” Well, you’re right, but the jury found a reason to doubt.

J.B.: Now, what does circumstantial evidence mean?

M.C.: Keeping it simple, circumstantial evidence is, say, a fingerprint. Why? Because you have to deduce from the fingerprint that the person who left that print is guilty of the crime. You didn’t see him do it, because that would be direct evidence, so that’s the short version of it.

J.B.: Which means most all evidence is circumstantial? 

M.C.: Yes. Anything short of the defendant saying, “I did it,” or an eyewitness picking them out of a line-up is circumstantial.

J.B.: Here’s another one I believe people don’t quite understand: Legally insane.

M.C.: Here’s the thing. It is a very high standard to prove someone is legally insane. You have to prove they did not understand the nature or quality of their act, and that they could not control their behavior. Basically, they did not know what they were doing. You’re talking about a person walking into a bar, shooting three people, but actually believing that he was spraying flowers with insecticide. You know what I mean. It’s that level of disorientation or lack of reality in what he’s doing and very, very few criminals can meet that test. It is very rare. Legally insane really does mean a person who does not understand or appreciate the nature and quality of his act. And who does that really fit?

J.B.: So those sitting at home saying you must be crazy to want to take someone’s life…that’s not the standard. 

M.C.: And if it were, you would have to rule everybody legally insane because what sane, rational person decides they have to kill somebody. No matter what that person might have done to you, do you really have to kill the person? We used to have a test in California a long time ago called “Irresistible Impulse.” That was where they said, if a defendant had an irresistible impulse and could not control himself and stop himself from committing the crime then he was legally insane. But the problem with that test is, was it really an irresistible impulse or was it just an impulse they didn’t resist? Well, isn’t that all crime? An impulse you didn’t resist?

J.B.: I am waiting for the day neuro-science brings us to a whole new understanding of how the brain works. We’re starting to see it now, in fact.  

M.C.: True. They are doing some interesting testing now with the psychopath and showing the empathy center in their brain is inactive. There is really a physical difference between them and “normal” people that you can see.

J.B.: And they respond differently to various violent images, even differently from other criminals, even those criminals who committed violent crimes.

M.C.: Yes, people seldom appreciate that the psychopath is only 2 to 5 percent of the population. Very small; you would even call it statistically insignificant. The majority of criminals are not psychopaths. They’re messed up, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they’re the picture of mental health, but they’re not psychopaths.

J.B.: Just a couple left on my list. What about hearsay? People don’t understand that a lot of times.

M.C.: Lawyers don’t understand that one a lot of times, either. Hearsay requires its own study. Simply defined, it is a statement made out of court offered for the truth of the matter asserted. Even if you’re on the witness stand and you want to testify as to something you said to someone else during a crime; that can be hearsay. If you are not offering a statement to prove what you’re saying is true, then it’s not hearsay. For example: If you asked me, “Marcia, what are you doing?” That is not hearsay; that is a question. What truth are you asserting? There is nothing you’re proving with that statement. It might do other things, but what it is not is hearsay. 

Generally speaking, we do have exceptions which is where the confusion comes into play. For example: If I am the prosecutor and a defendant made a statement during a crime like, “Lay down or I’ll shoot you in the head,” I am allowed to put his statement on. The witness is going to say that the defendant said, blah, blah, blah. And you are going to say that what the defendant said to the witness is hearsay so how can the witness testify to it? He can because it is a party admission. Under section 1220 of the Evidence Code, that statement comes in if the prosecution is proving it. The defendant cannot do that. If he wants to put in his own statements, he has to take the stand and find a way to put it in. He cannot elicit his own hearsay; only the prosecution can do it. So that’s where it gets confusing because you have all these exceptions where this side can bring it in and this side can’t, etc. That’s why there are a lot of arguments about it. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to the hearsay rule.

J.B.: Another thing…plea bargains. People don’t often understand why attorneys go for plea bargains rather than trials. As taxpayers they should understand, but maybe you could explain a bit about why plea bargains are necessary to the system.

M.C.: Well, I believe that if we didn’t have plea bargains, the system would collapse. There is just no possible way to have the resources to take all cases to trial. I mean, there are thousands and thousands of cases. It boggles the mind just to think of how many are in the system in L.A. County, alone. Now, defendants want plea bargains because it limits their exposure. If they go to trial they face the maximum sentence possible for all of the charges they get convicted of. If that amounts to, say, 99 years to life, and the prosecutor says I’ll give you 25 to life, then yeah, he’s going to save himself the grief of going to trial and risking the (what we call) twelve-headed monster convicting him of everything.

We wish to thank Marcia Clark for taking time out of her busy schedule to do this in-depth interview. For those who wish to check out more about “Killer Ambition,” head to http://www.suspensemagazine.com. And take a moment to check out http://www.suspensemagazine.com/CrimeandScienceRadio.html where Marcia and Jan posted additional links. 

Originally aired on Crime & Science Radio; October 2013. 

 
 

Guest Blogger: Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.: Killer Pen Pals

 

Killer Pen Pals

Whenever I give talks about my work, people sometimes ask how they can be pen pals with a serial killer. They’ve gotten hooked on true crime shows and they have the idea that because offenders are behind bars, they’re no longer dangerous. This would give the would-be correspondent a “safe” form of titillation and something cool to tell friends.

Sometimes, people just want to ease someone’s (or their own) loneliness. So, they look for an inmate who seeks connection.

I’m not talking about criminologists and journalists who correspond with killers to acquire information to improve our comprehension. I’m talking about people – especially kids – who think it would be fun to write to a killer. Often, they don’t grasp the potential consequences of having an offender focused on them. Not only do inmates know people on the outside whom they might persuade to be their proxy, but some of them eventually get out, too.

There are plenty of stories about pen pals becoming so enamored that they turn into prison groupies. In fact, in British news this week, a young pen pal from Poland supposedly became engaged to the ailing Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe. He’s 72. She’s 17. This kind of bond can make a person more vulnerable to manipulation.

It doesn’t take much searching to find examples where such relationships have ended in murder. Phillip Carl Jablonski murdered his wife in 1978. He was serving a sentence for it when he placed an ad for a pen pal. Carol Spadoni answered it. In 1982, they got married while he was still in prison. He got out in 1990. A year later, he sexually assaulted and shot Carol’s mother and suffocated Carol with duct tape before stabbing her to death. (That same month, he also murdered two other women.)

These potentially violent inmates can hook people by talking about how lonely they are and how they’re looking for love. They promise that they’ve reformed, they’re “spiritual” now, and they just need a friend. Some pen pals want to give them a second chance. Laura Jean Torres offered a helping hand to violent ex-con Robert Hernandez, who’d served time for aggravated battery. Torres ended up fatally stabbed.

David Goodell, 33, murdered pen pal Viviana Tulli, 22. They’d met when she was 16 and began a relationship through correspondence when he went to prison for assault. Once Doodell was out on parole, they reunited. Their mutual affection was short-lived as he soon strangled her to death. Hoping to avoid prison, he decided to fake a fatal car crash. Putting sunglasses and a hat on Tulli’s corpse, he placed it in the front seat of her car. His staging failed and he was arrested. In 2013, he pleaded guilty.

Darren Pilkington, convicted of manslaughter at 18, had a reputation for being a troubled kid. From prison, he put out word that he wanted a pen pal, which got the attention of 15-year-old Carly Fairhurst, five years younger than him. When she was 16, she visited him in prison, and after he was freed, he moved in with her. He soon began to abuse her. In 2006, after they came home from a pub, they argued. Pilkington hit Carly and she fell down the stairs. He covered her, waiting until morning to call for help. She died a week later from her injuries.

And it’s not just females who are vulnerable.

In 2014, Scott Kratlian fatally strangled 82-year-old Harry Major, a former high school teacher. The men had become pen pals while Kratlian was serving a sentence for manslaughter. Upon his release, Major invited Kratlian to move in. That was a fatal mistake.

Then there was Thomas Knuff, on parole in Ohio after serving 15 years for armed robbery and home invasion. He’d become acquainted with John Mann, 65, and his girlfriend Regina Capobianco, 50, through a prison pen pal program. He’d asked them to pick him up. Since he had nowhere to go, they brought him to their home, where he tied them up and stabbed them, killing both. He then lived in their home, with the bodies, for a week.

Edward Andrews started a correspondence with Thomas Jeffrey Brooks, nearly forty years younger than him. Upon Brooks’ release in 2007, he moved into Andrews’ mobile home. They became lovers, or so Andrews believed. Brooks had other ideas. With an accomplice, he killed Andrews, wrapped his body in duct tape, entombed it in a cement egg in a former employer’s rock garden and drained Andrews’ bank accounts.

“It’s not shocking when inmates behave like criminals,” says former U. S. Probation Officer Sally Keglovits. “It’s what most people expect. Manipulation comes with the territory and it’s not difficult for them to project a sympathetic image while in prison. What is somewhat shocking is the number of people who invite and encourage manipulation. They fall in love with an image that an inmate created. Reality can slap them in the face, often literally, upon the inmate’s release.”

Although many offenders do benefit from a kind word and a helping hand, those people who wish to assist (or acquire a more serious friend) should learn the behavioral red flags. Past violence is among the best indicators of future violence. So is a lack of remorse for harming others, a history of deception, a lack of respect for others, and a tendency to blame others for one’s own behavioral issues. Convictions for murder, sexual or physical assault, home invasion and crimes involving deadly weapons all foreshadow a dim future with such offenders. Often, they have poor skills for inhibiting impulses and for negotiating in relationships.

More to the point, what they’re like behind bars is no indication of what they might be like once free. Those who seek to become an inmate’s pen pal need to educate themselves about risk factors.

Follow Katherine on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katherine.ramsland

Originally posted on Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/201807/killer-pen-pals

 

Cancer Isn’t a Modern Disease

What is cancer? You know the term and odds are great that you know someone personally who has suffered from a member of this constellation of diseases. But what exactly is it?

cancer-101-s1-what-is-cancer-cell

Cancer is basically a genetic disease in that something changes in the DNA inside certain cells and this, in turn, disrupts their normal functions. These changes might result in uncontrolled growth and this can cause problems simply by the tumor’s size and location. The cancerous tissues might obstruct a bowel or a bile duct, or compress brain cells and increase the pressure inside the cranium, or erode into nearby organs of blood vessels. Others changes within these cells might alter their internal workings so that they no longer function as intended or they might produce chemicals or hormones that alter the function of other cells within the body. Cancer comes in many forms.

cancer-cells-growing

What causes cancer? This has been the subject of debate, as well as a tremendous amount of research, for many many years. We have some answers, but there are even more questions. We know that things such as cigarette smoking, exposure to the sun, certain chemicals, and many other things can trigger these genetic changes within cells that can lead to cancers of various types.

Medicine has made tremendous strides in our understanding of cancer and in our methods of early detection, diagnosis, and treatment. There are programs for the early detection of breast and colon cancer and newer treatment protocols have revolutionized the approach to these malignancies. The progress in leukemia and lymphoma treatment, as compared to when I was in medical school, has been nothing short of astounding. 

We often think of cancer as a modern scourge, but cancer is not a new disease. Not by a long shot. It’s been around for many centuries. Evidence for cancers have been found in Egyptian mummies and a recent report from Live Science underscores that.

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Beware the Rabid Dog—-and the Homeopath

Remember the scene in the classic “To Kill A Mockingbird,” where Atticus confronted and shot the rabid dog to protect Scout and her friends? A very dramatic scene and one that had played out in other communities during that era. A rabid dog roaming the streets was indeed a community emergency.

Atticus

But, I don’t remember anywhere in my medical training where the saliva of a rabid dog could be used to treat emotional problems, or anything else for that matter. Maybe I missed that day, though I doubt it.

Homeopath is a word everyone knows. You’ve heard it thousands of times. But, what does it mean? “Homeo” means “the same.” if something possesses homeostasis it means that it remains in a state of stability rather than one of flux or change. It’s static. “Path” means disease or a pathological state. So, homeopathic means a stable state of wellness that is unchanging.

A homeopath is someone who, by definition, practices medicine where nothing changes. No good, no bad, nothing. Homeostatic. Since most of what they do makes no difference, causes no changes in the body, their treatments also cause no harm. Well, except to your wallet. This is what keeps them from being more tightly regulated, or run out of business altogether. 

But that’s not always the case.

Jonah was a four-year-old boy who obviously had emotional if not truly psychiatric problems. He apparently was fearful of werewolves and would crawl around on the floor and beneath furniture and growl at his classmates. Odd behavior for sure. The proper course would have been for him to see a physician in order to determine if there was some infectious process, neuropsychiatric problem, or perhaps drugs involved in his behavior. If none of these were found, then psychiatric evaluation and care should follow.

Instead, he visited a homeopath. One Anke Zimmermann. Apparently, the treatment of choice under Zimmermann’s care was to give the young man a concocted medicine that contained the saliva of a rabid animal. Really? Odds are that this beyond bizarre treatment would do no harm, be homeopathic, but you just never know. The rabies virus is a hardy creature.

Rabies Virus

The key point here is that these types of treatments are neither regulated nor investigated and are far outside scientific thinking or procedure. The take-home lesson is, be careful out there. There are a lot of folks who, under the guise of being a so-called “health care provider,” do crazy stuff.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2018 in Medical Issues, Uncategorized

 
 
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