Casey Anthony Trial: Psychiatric Clues of an Accused Child Killer

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Forensic psychiatrists and psychologists sometimes assess for psychopathy even without an interview -- for example, when an examination is not possible and records are plentiful. Pivotal to that kind of assessment, however, is a life history that informs understanding of how Casey related to others at different stages and settings in her life. The psychopath has been parasitic, manipulative, dramatic, irresponsible, and/or has displayed many other relevant qualities in a variety of settings. One cannot diagnose psychopathy, no matter how outlandish the liar, without first studying all of this data as well.

What significance do you place in Casey Anthony's diary entries?

I think they are very informative. Forensic psychiatrists have to evaluate all forms of what a person has communicated, and how. The dilemma in assessing conversations over recorded prison telephone lines, in her interactions with police, and even with acquaintances and her boyfriend is that one is seeing an impression, a face, a self that she is projecting to others around her. That information is certainly informative, but the psychiatrist professional always has to be conscious about what may lie beneath outward appearances.

Diaries, on the other hand are exactly what lies beneath the surface. In most cases, we would never have access to that kind of evidence. Diaries are a window to the soul.

That a diary from the period of Caylee's disappearance is available is very useful. Personal and intimate evidence available, coinciding with the disappearance, includes the computer searches done from Casey Anthony's computer. Like the diaries, these communications -- to a computer, are driven from what was really brewing inside Casey Anthony.

So when you study the more private, personal evidence, what does it demonstrate?

It demonstrates that Casey Anthony really was as detached from her missing daughter as a delayed reporting would suggest. It goes even further -- for Casey Anthony noted that she was as happy as she has ever been, and wrote that the end justifies the means. Whatever her connection to Caylee at the time, her daughter's disappearance was a significant life event. These private communications from that time underscore the distinctive attitudes of satisfaction in the wake of death, and lack of remorse or indifference.

Casey's public appearance of indifference and shallow concern is underscored in these personal communications. The defendant's expressions of distress over her missing child, whatever their form, are contradicted by these intimate revelations of her contentment and happiness. Were death to have been accidental, these would have been the last qualities reflected in private writings.

Computer searches of chloroform and various modes of death have no other context to Casey Anthony's life. She is not a forensic pathologist or a pharmacologist or a trauma specialist -- why would she need to study neck-breaking?

Since the defense really has not provided alternative explanations for the above, they represent more than circumstantial findings, given their timing and the approximation to the facts. In that regard, the investigation yield is less muddy than it might appear.

When you consider the Depravity Standard research you have pioneered on the severity of a crime, what is the significance of these findings?

Research from higher court decisions, and from sampling of attitudes of the general public, has revealed strong support for 1) satisfaction in the wake of the crime and 2) indifference as attitudes that distinguish the depravity of a crime.

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