Sociopath

“I spoke to someone who had been involved in the case on the defense side, a psychologist. She said that, in her view, Frediani has the personality of a sociopath: charismatic, impulsive, hedonistic, smart, manipulative, faithless in sexual relationships, and ultimately remorseless.” -Weinberg, pg 339

I thought it was interesting that, following a discussion in class regarding possible personality disorders Frediani may have had, the book closes by addressing this idea.
But I’m also intrigued by the fact that a psychologist had been involved in Frediani’s case and had never testified. It seems she was able to create a relatively strong profile of Frediani as a sociopath–her description fits Frediani very well. Although the jury isn’t supposed to let themselves be swayed by emotion, building on the suspect’s character seems to be a key part of both the prosecution’s and the defense’s arguments. If the prosecution could suggest to the jury that the suspect is a sociopath, I’m sure they’d think it much more likely that such a person could commit murder.
Of course, it looks like this psychologist was working with the defense, and Bartick certainly would not have wanted the jury thinking his client was a sociopath. We don’t even know if the psychologist in question shared her view with anyone apart from Weinberg.
It certainly makes me wonder about the role of psychology in the courts.

Sociopath

Doing Your Job vs. Doing What’s Right

Some unwanted qualities can come with the job of being a defense attorney– especially if the attorney believes his/her client is in fact guilty of the crime they are charged with. However, like we have seen so far in Pointing From The Grave, the difference between what the defendant did, and what the prosecutor can prove is the ultimate decider in criminal cases. Throughout the history of our justice system many high profile cases that have made their way to national television have solidified the notion that sometimes guilty people can get away with murder if their attorney proves beyond a reasonable doubt that his/her client didn’t do as they are charged. For example, in the O.J. Simpson case, his “dream team” of Lawyers at some point in the case probably realized that they were representing a man who probably committed the double murder he was being charged with. However, even though their defense wasn’t that strong, they found ways to make the prosecution’s attack on Simpson seem less credible than it was. How hard do you think it is for a lawyer to successfully draft up a defense for a client that for the most part actually committed the crime? Do you think there are an ethical boundaries that he/she must face if they chose to accept an example of such a case? At the end of the day, being a lawyer is still a job. People earn a living representing people and I think that if defense attorneys keep this “ethical dilemma” in their minds then they will not be able to do their job correctly.

Doing Your Job vs. Doing What’s Right

Pathos in the Courtroom

“It gave Valerie an opportunity to put the photograph of Helena, crumpled behind the gate, back on the easel. For the rest of day two, the jury was confronted with this constant reminder of the pathos of violent death.” Weinberg, pg 280

Reading this chapter, the word ‘pathos’ jumped out at me. I’m currently taking a class in rhetoric, or the art of persuasion. And we learned about the three main types of arguments a person can make: logical arguments, based in the issue itself (logos), ethical arguments, based in the speaker’s reputation (ethos), and pathetic arguments, based in emotion (pathos). Based on this quote, it appears obvious that the prosecuting attorney is trying to get an emotional reaction out of the jury by leaving the picture of Helena’s body on display. She wants the jury to feel pity for the victim, which would lead to the jury feeling anger towards Frediani, which would in turn lead to his conviction. Pathos can be used to create very compelling arguments, especially in a case such as this one, a case so focused on people.
But the above quote isn’t the only mention of emotional appeals in this chapter.

“Solemn-faced, the twelve file into their seats on the first morning of their duties and listen as the judge instructs them of their powers, that they must apply the law without being influenced by pity or passion, and based on the facts and the evidence presented to them.” -Weinberg, pg 270

This explanation of the jury’s responsibilities makes it clear that they’re expected to ignore any emotional appeals made throughout the trial. Frediani should be convicted or exonerated based on evidence alone.
And yet the prosecution and defense will inevitably use pathos in their arguments, trying to stir up pity for the victim or the suspect, passion against the accused or the prosecution. Because they know that facts can be ignored and witnesses can be discredited. But it’s very hard to forget how something or someone made you feel.

Pathos in the Courtroom

“Ambiguous” DNA Tests

“Taylor’s laboratory had spent the last year running all sorts of tests on the Profiler Plus system and the 310 Genetic Analyzer, he told Bartick. On numerous occasions, the results had been, at best, ambiguous.” -Weinberg 259

I find it very astounding to think that DNA tests that were being used to test people’s innocence or guilt in certain situations were not giving clear results. I think that when people’s lives are at stake, everything should be as blatantly clear as possible. This obviously ties in to the Innocence Project and its purpose of freeing wrongly convicted people, but it was from the other side: using DNA evidence to show that people were innocent. I think that it is a hard line to walk, especially because DNA evidence has the power to be so influential, so it is important that it be used ethically and carefully.

This also brings into question the nature of the court system and prosecution. Why were they so quick to accept the lab results given to them? I think it was because they were amazed by the infallibility of DNA. But as infallible as science is, it can be fallible when handled or interpreted incorrectly, either on purpose or unknowingly. I think that the best solution for this is to do all testing blind, but most importantly, make sure the technology is 100 percent accurate before it is used to convict someone of a crime. I think the end goal of the courts should be to find the person who committed the crime, not just person.

“Ambiguous” DNA Tests

The Truth of DNA

“In the United States, Governor George Ryan of Illinois, a pro-death-penalty Republican, imposed a moratorium on capital punishment after thirteenth wrongly convicted man was released from death row in his state following DNA confirmation of his innocence”-(Weinberg 249-250)

The general consensus for DNA is that it is the best form of evidence when dealing with high profile cases. Often it has been used to put away the right people however, there have been cases to which the DNA was tampered with leaving innocent people in jail or worse dead. The death penalty is something very unique to this country as most developed nations have gone away from using capital punishment. There have been instances in which the prosecution or defense tampers with the DNA results leaving the jury to make an imperfect decision. Therefore what is the best solution to this very serious problem. I for one believe there should be more government intervention in order to avoid this problem of killing innocent people. Yet, in this case DNA here spared a man’s life as it proved his innocence.

The Truth of DNA

Prosecution Frustration

on page 230, this conversation takes place between Laura, Vic and Frediani: “Then how come we have your DNA?” “As far as DNA evidence, oh, I’m sure you’ve got some DNA evidence that probably points to me. Where you got it, how you got it, that’s a whole different matter. I’ve been in your custody for a long time.” “Why would we want to plant evidence?” Clearly these prosecutors are trying to get a confession out of him in a tactic that seems to be duress. Frediani remains calm and shows no evidence of fear or nervousness. He claims that the obtained DNA at the scene was not directly pointing to him for the crime. I feel that sometimes, if the prosecution is biased against the defendant, they may try and squeeze out a vague and false confession just to put him away. Is this type of aggression during interrogations fair.

Prosecution Frustration

Bias in Forensic Science

” I said something along the lines of, ‘This looks very promising, but for it to be used in court, we have to pass the Frye standard.’ I outlined the possible weaknesses, as I saw them; validation of the statistics, standards for matches, all the things that seemed pretty apparent to us. I thought I had given a nice talk about what would have to be done, when this woman from the Orange County crime lab stood up and said, ‘This kind of talk is dangerous. You shouldn’t be saying these kinds of things in public. Defense lawyers might find out about this and use it’ ” -Weinberg 192

I think that this attitude from forensic scientists says a lot. Firstly, I think that it shows the bias that at the time forensic scientists had towards defendants in general: they strove to prove them guilty. This statement from this woman shows that she and forensic scientists as a community were most likely to be on the side of the prosecution. This is even proven after Weinberg points out that the DNA testing was never done blind, and so forensic scientists were basically giving their own personal verdicts to the prosecution and courts.

This attitude is very alarming to me personally, because I consider myself a scientist also. It worries me to think that other scientists would inject their own opinions and biases into evidence and use science as a means to an end. For me, science and the discovery of new things should come from and be used as a way to make everyone’s lives easier and more efficient, not to meet one’s own personal agenda. It is also alarming to think that these labs and the courts were not monitoring the DNA testing, so that it would be blind. Weinberg even mentions that a scientist who studied the DNA of birds could’t even imagine doing her experiments unblinded. If birds are monitored so closely, why weren’t humans? Are they not more important and aren’t the implications more drastic? I feel as though this situation was almost a breach of ethics.

Bias in Forensic Science