Casey Anthony: Have the Media and Mob Mentality Created a False Image?
That is essentially the question Dr. Drew Pinsky has finally began asking after interviewing Dr. Harry Krop, a forensic psychologist who spent 20 hours with her and administered well-validated and reliable standardized tests upon which he based his evaluation. Dr. Krop was hired by the defense to examine Casey and would have been an expert witness for the penalty phase, had Casey been convicted of first degree murder, although it turned out she was not. Dr. Krop has concluded that in spite of all the media proclamations to the contrary from people who have never met, much less examined her, that Casey does not suffer from any diagnosable mental illness, personality disorders or sociopathy. The most he could offer is that she did show some narcissistic traits in her testing, but not enough for a personality disorder diagnosis. Showing traits of personality disorders that fall short of a diagnosis are very common and narcissism is a diagnosis that itself which, as I mentioned in a previous blog entry, lacks strong empirical (scientific) support. All too often, it is a term used to describe someone whose behavior one doesn’t like.
Dr. Drew, flabbergasted by Dr. Krop’s conclusions, asks how could that be? He raised several possibilities including the possibility that Casey may have fooled Dr. Krop (this fits with Dr. Drew’s experience which is treating severe drug addicts) and a more intriguing one, that perhaps Casey is not the monster that the media and mob mentality have created. We all, myself included, are viewing this situation through our own biases. I applaud Dr. Drew for finally raising this question, which is one I have been wondering about from the beginning. Having been the target of false media (internet) portrayals myself albeit on a much smaller scale but which nevertheless has been devastating, that is s possibility that almost immediately occurred to me as I have witnessed Casey being tried and convicted in the media, sometimes, most shamefully by licensed mental health professionals who had never met or examined her and therefore were jumping to completely unwarranted conclusions. Over the past two years, I have come to learn how easy this is to do to someone. Perhaps my own personal experience is giving me a bias in this matter and I acknowledge this, but since this goes against what the majority seem to be considering, I feel it is worth exploring, especially since the actual data from Dr. Krop’s examination appears to be supporting this possibility. Dr. Krop’s testing of Casey, which included the MMPI did not reveal any diagnosable condition. Moreover, the MMPI has built-in scales such as the Lie Scale that are safeguards against people who may try to fool the test and Casey’s scores on these scales were all within normal range, indicating that she was not trying to trick the test.
Personality disorders cannot be diagnosed by looking at video snippets of prison visits (or even in their entirety as Nancy Grace has recently been showing). People can behave very differently in crisis situations than they normally would. People seemed to be shocked at her behavior on these videos but having worked with a number of people her age who are in crisis situations, these sort of outbursts and profanity are not at all uncommon when young people get into heated disputes with their parents. In my own work with families with cult-involved loved ones, I have seen much worse, even from relatively normal people and families, so perhaps that is why Casey’s behavior on those videos does not shock me.
Casey, on the basis of these video snippets has been declared to be narcissistic and thinking only of self because she expressed how difficult it was to be locked up in jail and how she too is a victim. If she were innocent, she definitely would be a victim in all this and it’s not surprising that being taken away in handcuffs and locked up in solitary would have an impact on behavior. There are so many cases where people, particularly attractive young women, have been arrested, imprisoned and even convicted while being vilified by the media, who later were proven to be innocent. Dr. Drew had such a woman as a guest last night on his show, who after spending 11 years in prison was finally freed via the Innocence Project after DNA evidence proved she was innocent.
Personality disorder traits must be much more pervasive and consistent throughout a person’s life. We know from facts that came out at the trial that Casey was lying before the tragic death of her daughter, but still, lying is a behavior that doesn’t necessarily have to indicate a mental illness/personality disorder. It could be a learned behavior based on being part of a dysfunctional family system, which is what Dr. Krop has implied is one of the causes, accompanied by immaturity. This is not so incredible to me. We know that people who have spent years in cults, which are essentially dysfunctional systems, quite commonly can engage in lying, so why not a dysfunctional family system? Again, I am not saying she is or she is not. The fact is that we just don’t know and so any conclusion those of us not involved would draw would be sheer speculation. Dr. Krop, on the other hand, although fallible as any other examiner would be, is someone who actually spent 20 hours examining Casey Anthony and used standardized psychological tests. Another forensic psychologist, Dr. William Weitz, appears to agree with Krop. While not perfect, this is certainly better than speculation those who have not done so, myself included, can offer.
Some mental health professionals have questioned the ethics of Dr. Krop going to the media even though he did have Casey Anthony’s full consent. While such questioning is well warranted and I can understand where people with such concerns are coming from, in my opinion, we also need to consider whether such a decision might be the lesser of two evils. The greater evil, in my opinion, is that a number of self-proclaimed “experts” who have never met nor examined Casey have been coming forward as guests on various media shows making completely unsubstantiated assertions that Casey is a narcissist, a sociopath, etc. with no basis other than viewing out of context snippets of her behavior. Given that this has occurred, I think that Casey has the right to present evidence to the contrary via the psychologist who examined her, which in this case comes from a psychologist who actually tested and examined her and I would defend Dr. Krop’s decision to do so.
Casey Anthony is due to be released from prison tomorrow, after having been found not guilty of all the felony charges against her and having served her time for the misdemeanors for which she was convicted. People who see this as an injustice have every right to say so. However, I really hope that people will respect that this was the outcome that our criminal justice system has produced and that at this point, those of us not directly involved really don’t know what the truth is and probably will never know no matter how certain some people may feel they do know. One thing we know for sure about human beings is that we can feel very certain we know the truth about something that evidence produced later shows to be dead wrong. For instance, the Innocence Project and scientific studies have shown that time and time again, people have identified others with great certainly, only to later be proven wrong by DNA evidence, after the innocent person in some cases spent decades in prison. The moral of the story: Just because you feel certain about something doesn’t mean you are right. Perhaps it is this not knowing that is the most difficult of all to tolerate.
I fully get that this is about the tragic death of a child, Caylee Anthony and regardless of the cause, Casey’s lies that have been well established, were reprehensible. That being said, I would ask people to consider how it could be constructive to direct so much hatred towards Caylee’s mother, who has been found not guilty in a court of law and jump to unwarranted conclusions about her personality. I see no value in that and would urge anyone who has such feelings, rather than vent anger, hatred and possibly violence towards Casey, to find more constructive ways to channel them, such as being an advocate for children who need help. Go here for examples of how children are abused in the name of “therapy” on a regular basis while society at large, including many mental health professionals, turn a blind eye, perhaps because they are frightened of the consequences of speaking out, given that whistleblowers have been targeted with smear campaigns. People who really want to help abused children might want to consider supporting organizations such as this. It is so much safer to go with the mob and attack people such as Casey Anthony and to feel self-righteous about doing so.