Using Multiple Personality Disorder as Legal Defense

— Police heard the confession on tape: A man said he raped and strangled a woman.

After that, "I throwed her down and left her lying there," said the loud and angry voice on tape.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed that the voice belongs to Thomas Huskey, who pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder. But Huskey's lawyers said that the man confessing was someone else: another personality who lives inside Huskey's body, but is completely beyond his control.

Was Huskey inventing another persona, completely changing his tone and vocabulary as part of a ploy for acquittal or a more lenient sentence, or does he suffer from multiple personality disorder?

Primetime explored the Huskey case as part of a broader question: whether multiple personality disorder is a valid defense, or simply a clever ruse by criminals who are also good actors.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

In the early 1990s, four women were viciously killed, some of their bodies bound and mangled in the outskirts of Knoxville. Huskey was charged with the attacks on the women, three of whom were known prostitutes.

Other prostitutes claimed Huskey took them to the same spot, and he was also found with some rope and jewelry that the prosecution claims can be linked to the slayings. Then there is the tape: Prosecutors said it is the recorded voice of Huskey, confessing in chilling and remorseless detail.

But defense lawyers Gregory Isaacs and Herbert Moncier said the man on the tape is not Huskey at all. Huskey may have been speaking, they said, but the words were coming from an alter ego that had taken control of Huskey's body, a completely different personality named "Kyle." And even though "Kyle" confesses to murder on the tape, the defense attorneys said it is not proof that Thomas Huskey — a soft-spoken and reserved man — committed any crime.

"You can call me a goddamn son of a bitch, as long as you don't call me Tommy," said the voice on the recording. "You can't get me and Tommy mixed up. You can't get that goody-goody little son of a bitch mixed up with me!"

The defense said that other personalities had emerged in interviews by police and defense experts, including an Englishman called Phillip Daxx, and a homosexual interested in pornography named "Timmy." The defense said that Huskey, who claimed to experience fierce headaches and blackouts, suffered from multiple personality disorder, which is clinically referred to as dissociative identity disorder.

If, as the defense argued, Huskey suffered from mental illness, according to Tennessee law, he would not be "responsible for criminal conduct, if at the time of such conduct, as a result of a mental disease or defect, he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law."

The Prosecution

Prosecutors called their own expert witnesses. Dr. Herbert Spiegel, a psychiatrist in private practice, said he believes that a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder is very rare, and using it as a legal defense is "an embarrassment to the whole profession" of psychiatry.

Huskey, he told jurors, is not a victim of the disorder, nor did a separate personality kill four women outside Knoxville. Rather, he said, Huskey is simply a psychopath trying to pull of a sham.

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