Monday, August 8, 2011

Is Scott Peterson a sociopath?

Many people throw this label around based on a few observations of Scott's behavior during the affair and after Laci's disappearance.  I've found some information on the Internet that puts diagnosing a sociopath in the right framework.  I've added some italics, bolds, and underlines to emphasize certain of the information, and of course, my own commentary in red.

How to Diagnose a Sociopath 
By Maria Tarallo, eHow Contributor

Read more: How to Diagnose a Sociopath |
There are a number of mental disorders that affect the personality and antisocial disorders many times present similar characteristics. To diagnose a sociopath; there are a few clear behaviors, mainly, the sociopath's complete disregard for the rights of others. This disdain for others is expressed in a variety of ways throughout the person's life. To medically diagnose a sociopath, three of the following behaviors must be observed since childhood.
This is the part everyone seems to ignore -- these patterns of behavior must be observed since childhood.


    • 1
      Look for signs that a person does not experience guilt. For most people it is normal to feel guilt or remorse when they have wronged someone. Sociopaths don't experience empathic feelings and therefore feel no guilt. They see their behaviors as justified and will refuse to take responsibility or apologize. During childhood, sociopaths typically engage in behaviors such as hurting helpless animals and show no remorse.  Absolutely no evidence that Scott engaged in such behavior during childhood.  He was not a problem child, so what occasion would there be for him to feel guilt or remorse for having wronged someone?  He didn't cause Laci's disappearance, so how can he feel guilty or remorseful?  I do hear guilt and remorse in the phone conversations with Amber -- guilt and remorse for having had the affair, for having lied to Amber, for having dashed her dreams of a future with a wealth, jet-setting executive!  He repeatedly took responsibility with Amber for lying to her.  And he is very empathic towards Amber's daughter.  
    • 2
      Look for repeated deceitful behavior. A sociopath generally has a track record of lying and being deceitful. Making up wild stories and deliberately twisting scenarios to hurt someone are also commonly observed in sociopaths. As is the case with other sociopath behaviors, lying begins in childhood.  No such track record with Scott from childhood, or with anything in his adult life before Laci's disappearance with the exception of the affairs -- 2 documented affairs, 5 years apart. Sad reality is, lying and deceit are part and parcel with having an affair; not only lying to the spouse, but lying to the mistress.  
    • 3
      Look for signs of reckless behavior. Sociopaths have no concern for their own safety or for the safety of others. They commonly engage in fights and conflict repeatedly. They also tend to behave in other reckless ways such as driving at outrageous speeds purposely to put their lives and the lives of others in danger. During childhood, bullying and harassing others is common.  No evidence of such behavior from Scott -- either during his childhood or adult life.  
    • 4
      Look for defiant behavior. Sociopaths have a hard time conforming to social norms and regulations. They tend to repeatedly break the law and have a history of stealing and engaging in drug use. It is estimated that eighty percent of the male inmate population has a personality disorder that manifests as antisocial behavior.  No evidence of such behavior from Scott -- either during his childhood or adult life.
    • 5
      Look for signs of extreme emotions such as anger and rage, or complete indifference. Sociopaths usually display mood swings and manipulative behavior. Anger and violence are common as are extreme frustration when they can't get what they want. Although sociopaths are generally angry people, they are also known to turn on the charm in order to manipulate people to obtain what they want. They can also be aloof and indifferent to things that would upset a normal person.  People often cite using charm to manipulate people, but they fail to explain why there is no anger or rage in Scott's life -- none at all.  No evidence of violence.  Neither is there any evidence that he was completely indifferent to things that would upset a normal person.  He wasn't a publicly emotional person, but he did show emotions in public.  But we don't hear about those -- we only hear the myth perpetrated by the MPD and the family and friends who soured on Scott after they learned of the affair that Scott didn't show any emotion.  Other than Amber, who claimed Scott had manipulated them?  Laci certainly had no complaints to make about Scott to her family, or her friends, or her other associates.  Whatever problems they had in their marriage were not sufficient for her to feel it necessary to involve other people, and there is no evidence that Laci was the type of personality to stay in a bad marriage.  
    • 6
      Look at a person's history. Although the exact cause of why an individual becomes a sociopath is not clear, there are a number of things sociopaths have in common. A history of child abuse or having a parent with substance abuse problems is common among sociopaths. Genetics seem to also play a significant role as the children of parents with antisocial personality disorder appear to be at a higher risk of developing an antisocial personality disorder. Ultimately though, this cannot be used as a sure indicator because sociopaths have also been known to come from loving homes.  
Scott did not exhibit 3 of the above behaviors from childhood -- he didn't exhibit any of them from childhood.  The only category, lying and deceit, involved affairs after he married -- two affairs, 5 years apart.  Inexcusable.  Despicable. But not evidence of being a sociopath.  And certainly not evidence of murder.

This is from another Internet article -- again I've added italics, bold, and underline for emphasis.

Early behavior problems

Most psychopaths begin to exhibit serious behavioral problems at an early age. These might include persistent lying, cheating, theft, fire setting, truancy, class disruption, substance abuse, vandalism, violence, bullying, running away and precocious sexuality. Because many children exhibit some of these behaviors at one time or another, especially children raised in violent neighborhoods or in disrupted or abusive families, it is important to emphasize that the psychopaths's history of such behaviors is more extensive and serious than that of most others, even when compared with those of siblings and friends raised in similar settings.

Early cruelty to animals is usually a sign of serious emotional or behavioral problems. Cruelty to other children—including siblings—is often part of the young psychopaths's inability to experience the sort of empathy that checks normal people's impulses to inflict pain, even when enraged.

Adult antisocial behavior
Psychopaths consider the rules and expectations of society inconvenient and unreasonable, impediments to their inclinations and wishes. They make their own rules, both as children and as adults.

Many of the antisocial acts of psychopaths lead to criminal convictions. Even within prison populations psychopaths stand out, largely because their antisocial and illegal activities are more varied and frequent than are those of other criminals.

Not all psychopaths end up in jail. Many of the things they do escape detection or prosecution, or are on the "shady side of the law." For them, antisocial behavior may consist of phony stock promotions, questionable business and professional practices, spouse or child abuse, and so forth. Many others do things that, although not illegal, are unethical, immoral or harmful to others: philandering, cheating on a spouse, financial or emotional neglect of family members, irresponsible use of company resources or funds, to name but a few. The problem with behaviors of this sort is that they are difficult to document and evaluate without the active cooperation of family, friends, acquaintances and business associates.
The only thing in this list that Scott Peterson is guilty of is cheating on a spouse. No illegal or unethical behavior, no spousal or child abuse; no financial neglect or irresponsible use of company resources or funds; no questionable business or professional practices; and certainly no criminal behavior.

3rd Party Guilt: Nearness in time, place, and circumstances to the alleged crime

"Third party guilt: The crucial role of defense theory instructions", by Thomas Lundy, discusses the importance of jury instructions that educate the jurors on how they should judge evidence of 3rd party guilt.  I only include critical elements to make the point that the Medina Burglary meets the standards of 3rd party guilt established by the Courts.
When the defense relies on a theory of third party guilt, the jury may improperly view the trial as a question of whether or not the third party has been proven guilty. Hence, it is crucial that the instructions caution the jurors against shifting the burden of proof to the defendant.

The most important role of a third party guilt instruction is to assure the jurors understand that the defense has no burden to prove that the third party is guilty. The defendant’s third party evidence need not show “substantial proof of a probability that the third person committed the act; it need only be capable of raising a reasonable doubt of defendant’s guilt.” Hall, 41 Cal.3d at 833; see also People v. Madison, 3 Cal.2d 668, 677 (46 P.2d 159) (Cal. 1935) (prosecution must present evidence that no other person committed the crime charged); Mullis v. Commonwealth, 351 S.E.2d 919, 926 (Va. 1987) (“. . . no burden on the defendant to produce any evidence and the defendant does not have to prove who killed her husband.”).  
This is a critical distinction -- the defense does not have to prove who else committed the crime, but the State must prove that "no other person committed the crime."

What is the requirement for 3rd party guilt to pass muster and be allowed in Court?  The simplest explanation presented by Lundy comes from "Wisconsin v. Sheidell, 595 N.W.2d 661, 673 (Wis. 1999), requiring that third party culpability evidence share 'nearness in time, place, and circumstances to the alleged crime or to the fact or proposition sought to be proved'."

"Nearness in time, place, and circumstances to the alleged crime" -- the Medina burglary certainly meets that burden.
  1. Evidence that Laci was still alive on the morning of December 24
    1. Evidence that Laci used the computer that morning
    2. Corroborating evidence from multiple independent witnesses that Laci went for a walk in the neighborhood
  2. Diane Jackson saw the van and 3 men and the safe being removed from the Medina home at 11:40
    1. That safe was found at the residence of Donald Pearce, who admitted assisting in the burglary
    2. Items stolen from the Medina home were found in the possession of Steve Todd, who admitted casing the neighborhood and committing the burglary
  3. Todd's and Pearce's alleged time for the burglary is easily disproved, as we've shown in previous articles on this blog
  4. Two independent reports linked the burglary to Laci
    1. The confidential informant who ratted out Todd and Pearce reported that he was concerned for Laci Peterson's safety
    2. Phone conversation between Shawn and Adam Tenbrink caused Lt. Aponte to call the tip line and report that Adam told Shawn that Laci walked in on Todd during the burglary and Todd verbally threatened her.  Aponte was sufficiently concerned that he called again and put a closer monitor on Shawn Tenbrink's phone calls.
Some will undoubtedly say, burglars don't commit murder.  If so, why does California's statute for felony murder include burglary?
Penal Code section 189 provides, in pertinent part: "All murder . . . which is committed in the perpetration of , or attempt to perpetrate, arson, rape, robbery, burglar y , mayhem, or [lewd acts with a minor], is murder of the first degree; . . ." This statute imposes strict liability for deaths committed in the course of one of the enumerated felonies whether the killing was caused intentionally, negligently, or merely accidentally. Burglary falls expressly within the purview of California's first degree felony-murder rule. Any burglary within Penal Code section 459 is sufficient to invoke the rule. Whether or not the particular burglary was dangerous to human life is of no legal import.  (emphasis added)
It doesn't have to be a murder -- just a death.  Furthermore, all persons involved in the felony are guilty of the felony murder, not just the one who causes the death. This is very good reason for the ones not responsible for the death to keep their mouths shut.

It is true that some criminals burglarize unoccupied homes because they want to avoid confrontation.  But we should not be naive enough to believe it's because they don't want to hurt anyone or are incapable of hurting anyone. Rather, it simply is because they don't want to get caught, and most especially, they don't want to get shot!  Source
The most thorough study of burglary patterns was a St. Louis survey of 105 currently active burglars. [FN65] The authors observed, "One of the most serious risks faced by residential burglars is the possibility of being injured or killed by occupants of a target. Many of the offenders we spoke to reported that this was far and away their greatest fear." [FN66]Said one burglar: "I don't think about gettin' caught, I think about gettin' gunned down, shot or somethin'...'cause you get into some people's houses...quick as I come in there, boom, they hit you right there. That's what I think about."
Another burglar explained:
Hey, wouldn't you blow somebody away if someone broke into your house and you don't know them? You hear this noise and they come breakin' in the window tryin' to get into your house, they gon' want to kill you anyway. See, with the police, they gon' say, "Come out with your hands up and don't do nothing foolish!" Okay, you still alive, but you goin' to jail. But you alive. You sneak into somebody's house and they wait til you get in the house and then they shoot you.. . .See what I'm sayin'? You can't explain nothin' to nobody; you layin' down in there dead! [FN67]
Some individuals may choose burglary because they dislike confrontations; however, not all burglars are non-confrontational by nature. According to the Wright-Rossi prisoner survey, sixty-two percent of burglars had also perpetrated robberies.[FN96] The study of currently active burglars in St. Louis observed: "Most offenders in our sample...showed little concern for the well-being of their victims. In fact, several of them said they were prepared to use violence against anyone who got in their way during the commission of an offense." [FN97]
[FN97]. Wright & Decker, supra note 65, at 111.
One burglar explained: When [the victims] come in there, they better have some boxin' gloves on cause I'm gon whip some ass or somethin' and I ain't lyin'. It's gon' be a fight up in there, partner. You ain't callin' nobody. You be callin' somebody, it be 911 for ambulance for your ass 'cause I'm gon' do you. I'm gon' hurt you, I ain't lyin'. Don't come in there and y'all catch me. Hey man, I'm for real.