Andrea Harner
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May 12, 2009

Check out today's Science Times section of the NY Times for lots of forensics related articles!!!

April 9, 2009

Arizona: Fake Student Sentenced. What a stand-up guy.
A youthful-looking sex offender who posed as a 12-year-old boy to enroll in several Arizona schools was sentenced to more than 70 years in prison. The man, Neil H. Rodreick II, 31, pleaded guilty last year to seven criminal charges. Most involved child pornography, but two stemmed from the charade he pulled off for two years. Mr. Rodreick attended schools in Payson, Prescott Valley and Surprise starting in 2005. The authorities said he shaved and wore makeup to help him appear younger, convincing teachers, students and administrators that he was a boy named Casey. He was caught in January 2007 after spending a day in the seventh grade at a Chino Valley school when school officials became suspicious because his birth certificate and other documents looked forged. They had initially thought they might be dealing with a child who had been abducted.

* via NY Times print edition!

March 12, 2009

Europeans Debate Castration of Sex Offenders By Dan Bilefsky, NY Times


Pavel remembers the violent night sweats two days before the murder. He went to see a family doctor, who said they would go away. But after viewing a Bruce Lee martial arts film, he said, he felt uncontrollable sexual desires. He invited a 12-year-old neighbor home. Then he stabbed the boy repeatedly.

His psychiatrist says Pavel derived his sexual pleasure from the violence.

More than 20 years have passed. Pavel, then 18, spent seven years in prison and five years in a psychiatric institution. During his last year in prison, he asked to be surgically castrated. Having his testicles removed, he said, was like draining the gasoline from a car hard-wired to crash. A large, dough-faced man, he is sterile and has forsaken marriage, romantic relationships and sex, he said. His life revolves around a Catholic charity, where he is a gardener.

“I can finally live knowing that I am no harm to anybody,” he said during an interview at a McDonald’s here, as children played loudly nearby. “I am living a productive life. I want to tell people that there is help.”

He refused to give his last name for fear of being hounded.

Whether castration can help rehabilitate violent sex offenders has come under new scrutiny after the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee last month called surgical castration “invasive, irreversible and mutilating” and demanded that the Czech Republic stop offering the procedure to violent sex offenders. Other critics said that castration threatened to lead society down a dangerous road toward eugenics.

Continue reading...

March 11, 2009

Eyewitness Testimony Parts 1 & 2 on 60 Minutes

February 25, 2009

After Abuse, Changes in the Brain By Benedict Carey, NY Times
For years, psychiatrists have known that children who are abused or neglected run a high risk of developing mental problems later in life, from anxiety and depression to substance abuse and suicide.

The connection is not surprising, but it raises a crucial scientific question: Does the abuse cause biological changes that may increase the risk for these problems?

Over the past decade or so, researchers at McGill University in Montreal, led by Michael Meaney, have shown that affectionate mothering alters the expression of genes in animals, allowing them to dampen their physiological response to stress. These biological buffers are then passed on to the next generation: rodents and nonhuman primates biologically primed to handle stress tend to be more nurturing to their own offspring, Dr. Meaney and other researchers have found.

Now, for the first time, they have direct evidence that the same system is at work in humans. In a study of people who committed suicide published Sunday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers in Montreal report that people who were abused or neglected as children showed genetic alterations that likely made them more biologically sensitive to stress.

The findings help clarify the biology behind the wounds of a difficult childhood and hint at what constitutes resilience in those able to shake off such wounds.

The study “extends the animal work on the regulation of stress to humans in a dramatic way,” Jaak Panksepp, an adjunct professor at Washington State University who was not involved in the research, wrote in an e-mail message.

He added that the study “suggests pathways that have promoted the psychic pain that makes life intolerable,” and continued, “It’s a wonderful example of how the study of animal models of emotional resilience can lead the way to understanding human vicissitudes.”

In the study, scientists at McGill and the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences compared the brains of 12 people who had committed suicide and who had had difficult childhoods with 12 people who had committed suicide and who had not suffered abuse or neglect as children.

The scientists determined the nature of the subjects’ upbringing by doing extensive interviews with next of kin, as well as investigating medical records. The brains are preserved at Douglas Hospital in Montreal as part of the Quebec Suicide Brain Bank, a program founded by McGill researchers to promote suicide studies that receives brain donations from around the province.

When people are under stress, the hormone cortisol circulates widely, putting the body on high alert. One way the brain reduces this physical anxiety is to make receptors on brain cells that help clear the cortisol, inhibiting the distress and protecting neurons from extended exposure to the hormone, which can be damaging.

The researchers found that the genes that code for these receptors were about 40 percent less active in people who had been abused as children than in those who had not. The scientists found the same striking differences between the abused group and the brains of 12 control subjects, who had not been abused and who died from causes other than suicide. “It is good evidence that the same systems are at work in humans that we have seen in other animals,” said Patrick McGowan, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Meaney’s lab at McGill and the lead author of the study.

His co-authors, along with Dr. Meaney, were Aya Sasaki, Ana C. D’Alessio, Sergiy Dymov, Benoît Labonté and Moshe Szyf, all of McGill, and Dr. Gustavo Turecki, a McGill researcher who leads the Brain Bank.

Because of individual differences in the genetic machinery that regulates stress response, experts say, many people manage their distress despite awful childhoods. Others may find solace in other people, which helps them regulate the inevitable pain of living a full life.

“The bottom line is that this is a terrific line of work, but there is a very long way to go either to understand the effects of early experience or the causes of mental disorders,” Dr. Steven Hyman, a professor of neurobiology at Harvard, wrote in an e-mail message.

* via The New York Times.

February 5, 2009

Science Found Wanting in Nation’s Crime Labs By Solomon Moore, NY Times


Forensic evidence that has helped convict thousands of defendants for nearly a century is often the product of shoddy scientific practices that should be upgraded and standardized, according to accounts of a draft report by the nation’s pre-eminent scientific research group.

Robert L. Stinson, convicted of murder in 1984, was freed from a Wisconsin prison last month after tests found that bite-mark and DNA analysis did not match evidence from the crime scene.

The report by the National Academy of Sciences is to be released this month. People who have seen it say it is a sweeping critique of many forensic methods that the police and prosecutors rely on, including fingerprinting, firearms identification and analysis of bite marks, blood spatter, hair and handwriting.

The report says such analyses are often handled by poorly trained technicians who then exaggerate the accuracy of their methods in court. It concludes that Congress should create a federal agency to guarantee the independence of the field, which has been dominated by law enforcement agencies, say forensic professionals, scholars and scientists who have seen review copies of the study. Early reviewers said the report was still subject to change.

The result of a two-year review, the report follows a series of widely publicized crime laboratory failures, including the case of Brandon Mayfield, a lawyer from Portland, Ore., and Muslim convert who was wrongly arrested in the 2004 terrorist train bombing in Madrid that killed 191 people and wounded 2,000.

American examiners matched Mr. Mayfield’s fingerprint to those found at the scene, although Spanish authorities eventually convinced the Federal Bureau of Investigation that its fingerprint identification methods were faulty. Mr. Mayfield was released, and the federal government settled with him for $2 million.

In 2005, Congress asked the National Academy to assess the state of the forensic techniques used in court proceedings. The report’s findings are not binding, but they are expected to be highly influential.

“This is not a judicial ruling; it is not a law,” said Michael J. Saks, a psychology and law professor at Arizona State University who presented fundamental weaknesses in forensic evidence to the academy. “But it will be used by others who will make law or will argue cases.”

Legal experts expect that the report will give ammunition to defense lawyers seeking to discredit forensic procedures and expert witnesses in court. Lawyers could also use the findings in their attempts to overturn convictions based on spurious evidence. Judges are likely to use the findings to raise the bar for admissibility of certain types of forensic evidence and to rein in exaggerated expert testimony.

The report may also drive federal legislation if Congress adopts its recommendations. Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama, who has pushed for forensic reform, said, “My hope is that this report will provide an objective and unbiased perspective of the critical needs of our crime labs.”

Forensics, which developed within law enforcement institutions — and have been mythologized on television shows from “Quincy, M.E.” to “CSI: Miami” — suffers from a lack of independence, the report found.

The report’s most controversial recommendation is the establishment of a federal agency to finance research and training and promote universal standards in forensic science, a discipline that spans anthropology, biology, chemistry, physics, medicine and law. The report also calls for tougher regulation of crime laboratories.

Continue reading...

December 9, 2008

2 papers, 1 presentation & 1 exam DOWN. 3 papers and 1 final TO GO!!

This is my last semester of grad school with a full schedule so the prospect of completing this semester is exciting!

November 24, 2008

Look at what I have due next week!!! Super interesting but a little too much!!!

MONDAY: 15 page paper on the phenomenon of Mass Murder and Seung-Hui Cho

TUESDAY: Take-home midterm on Shoe Bomber Richard Reid and the psychological, cognitive, and social processes involved in his radicalization

WEDNESDAY: 8 page protocol evaluating a fictional client's Competency to Stand Trial

THURSDAY: Group presentation worth 40% of the class grade on a research proposal hypothesizing different crime scene characteristics for terrorist acts committed by the third wave of terrorists (younger, less educated, and leaderless) as opposed to the first and second waves as outlined by Forensic Psychiatrist Marc Sageman.

November 23, 2008

Suffering Souls: The search for the roots of psychopathy by John Seabrook, New Yorker


The Western New Mexico Correctional Facility sits in high-desert country about seventy miles west of Albuquerque. Grants, a former uranium boomtown that depends heavily on prison work, is a few miles down the road. There’s a glassed-in room at the top of the prison tower, with louvred windows and, on the ceiling, a big crank that operates a searchlight. In a box on the floor are some tear-gas shells that can be fired down into the yard should there be a riot. Below is the prison complex—a series of low six-sided buildings, divided by high hurricane fences topped with razor wire that glitters fiercely in the desert sun. To the east is the snow-covered peak of Mt. Taylor, the highest in the region; to the west, the Zuni Mountains are visible in the blue distance.

One bright morning last April, Dr. Kent Kiehl strode across the parking lot to the entrance, saying, “I guarantee that by the time we reach the gate the entire inmate population will know I’m here.” Kiehl—the Doc, as the inmates call him—was dressed in a blue blazer and a yellow tie. He is tall, broad-shouldered, and barrel-chested, with neat brown hair and small ears; he looks more like a college football player, which was his first ambition, than like a cognitive neuroscientist. But when he speaks, in an unexpectedly high-pitched voice, he becomes that know-it-all kid in school who intimidated you with his combination of superior knowledge and bluster.

At thirty-eight, Kiehl is one of the world’s leading younger investigators in psychopathy, the condition of moral emptiness that affects between fifteen to twenty-five per cent of the North American prison population, and is believed by some psychologists to exist in one per cent of the general adult male population. (Female psychopaths are thought to be much rarer.) Psychopaths don’t exhibit the manias, hysterias, and neuroses that are present in other types of mental illness. Their main defect, what psychologists call “severe emotional detachment”—a total lack of empathy and remorse—is concealed, and harder to describe than the symptoms of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. This absence of easily readable signs has led to debate among mental-health practitioners about what qualifies as psychopathy and how to diagnose it. Psychopathy isn’t identified as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association’s canon; instead, a more general term, “antisocial personality disorder,” known as A.P.D., covers the condition.

There is also little consensus among researchers about what causes psychopathy. Considerable evidence, including several large-scale studies of twins, points toward a genetic component. Yet psychopaths are more likely to come from neglectful families than from loving, nurturing ones. Psychopathy could be dimensional, like high blood pressure, or it might be categorical, like leukemia. Researchers argue over whether tests used to measure it should focus on behavior or attempt to incorporate personality traits—like deceitfulness, glibness, and lack of remorse—as well. The only point on which everyone agrees is that psychopathy is extremely difficult to treat. And for some researchers the word “psychopath” has been tainted by its long and seamy relationship with criminality and popular culture, which began with true-crime pulps and continues today in TV shows like CBS’s “Criminal Minds” and in the work of authors like Thomas Harris and Patricia Cornwell. The word is so loaded with baleful connotations that it tends to empurple any surrounding prose.

Kiehl is frustrated by the lack of respect shown to psychopathy by the mental-health establishment. “Think about it,” he told me. “Crime is a trillion-dollar-a-year problem. The average psychopath will be convicted of four violent crimes by the age of forty. And yet hardly anyone is funding research into the science. Schizophrenia, which causes much less crime, has a hundred times more research money devoted to it.” I asked why, and Kiehl said, “Because schizophrenics are seen as victims, and psychopaths are seen as predators. The former we feel empathy for, the latter we lock up.”

In January of 2007, Kiehl arranged to have a portable functional magnetic-resonance-imaging scanner brought into Western—the first fMRI ever installed in a prison. So far, he has recruited hundreds of volunteers from among the inmates. The data from these scans, Kiehl hopes, will confirm his theory, published in Psychiatry Research, in 2006, that psychopathy is caused by a defect in what he calls “the paralimbic system,” a network of brain regions, stretching from the orbital frontal cortex to the posterior cingulate cortex, that are involved in processing emotion, inhibition, and attentional control. His dream is to confound the received wisdom by helping to discover a treatment for psychopathy. “If you could target the brain region involved, then maybe you could find a drug that treats that region,” he told me. “If you could treat just five per cent of them, that would be a Nobel Prize right there.”

Continue reading...

September 14, 2008

Why They Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist By Richard Rhodes

I started this book a while ago but had to put it down while reading for school. The irony is that this book has significantly informed my studies of crime and violence. The work of criminologist Lonnie Athens is groundbreaking and convincing (you'll have to read the book to learn what his decades of studies reveal about violent offenders!). I'm certain the communication of this knowledge was greatly facilitated by the fantastically clear and engaging writing of Pulitzer Prize-winning Richard Rhodes. I think the best thing for an academic is to have a Richard Rhodes caliber writer tell the story of their work! Highly, highly recommended.


August 12, 2008

In U.S., Expert Witnesses Are Partisan By Adam Liptak, NY Times

This article discusses what we often touched on in my psych & law class last semester: the role of expert witnesses.

Here are some highlights:

...Dr. Leonard Welsh, the psychologist who testified for the state, said he sometimes found his work compromising.

“After you come out of court,” Dr. Welsh said, “you feel like you need a shower. They’re asking you to be certain of things you can’t be certain of.” He might have preferred a new way of hearing expert testimony that Australian lawyers call hot tubbing.

In that procedure, also called concurrent evidence, experts are still chosen by the parties, but they testify together at trial — discussing the case, asking each other questions, responding to inquiries from the judge and the lawyers, finding common ground and sharpening the open issues. In the Wilkins case, by contrast, the two experts “did not exchange information,” the Court of Appeals for Iowa noted in its decision last year.

“Judges think that if we could just have a place in the adversarial trial that was a little less adversarial and a little more scientific, everything would be fine,” Professor Edmond said. “But science can be very acrimonious.”

Melvin Belli, the famed trial lawyer, endorsed this view. “If I got myself an impartial witness,” he once said, “I’d think I was wasting my money.”

Continue reading...

August 4, 2008

Courthouse Confessions: An incredible project!

This is great. I only wish I had thought of it!!








For more click here.

July 7, 2008

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town By John Grisham

This book was a heart-wrenching and eye-opening read. Grisham tells the story of Ron Williamson and makes you realize how colossally human we are: Our actions are mostly fueled by good yet our pathologies intervene. Also, we harbor the capacity to commit cruel acts solely for ego survival as painfully portrayed by the Ada, Oklahoma police department. While it was certainly troubling to read the process of how such an atrocity happened, the book is also, as the best investigative journalistic works are, thoughtful, illuminating and gripping. Grisham's first foray into non-fiction proves that his storytelling skills are sharpest in this genre!


* Thanks to my dad for the recommendation - Of course I already had it ready and waiting on my bookshelf!

Case closed. Sort of. By Michelle Chen, NewsDay

What's so thrilling about an unsolved murder case? A lot, I say!

After about 20 years, the high-profile Martin Tankleff murder case has drawn to an end. Tankleff is a free man, no one else has been charged with the crime, yet he hasn't been fully exonerated by the state. End of story?

If you still feel unsettled, you're not the only one. To some, the overturning of his conviction is a just conclusion to the case; others read it as a twist in a bigger mystery.

Arie Kruglanski, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, has uncovered psychological underpinnings in the tension people feel over unsolved crimes and other disturbing uncertainties in life: it's all driven by a fundamental "need for closure."

A desire to have a clear conclusion to any story is natural, Kruglanski says. Whether you're anxiously turning the pages of a detective novel or mulling over the conspiracy theories that have kept the Kennedy assassination alive for decades.

To Sarah Weinman, a writer, critic and blogger specializing in crime fiction, the public fascination with the Tankleff case resonates with the magnetism of a good mystery novel. "As long as something is unresolved, there's still the potential for resolution. There's still suspense," she says. "Suspense is a very powerful, very provocative emotion or feeling."

But we vary in our desire for conclusiveness. "Some people, because of their temperament or because of the way they were brought up, find uncertainty more unpleasant than other people," says Kruglanski. That could play out in their social interactions and politics as well--in ways that society may view as positive or negative.

Continue reading...

Knowing who killed a loved one is justice by Philip Lerman, NewsDay

Marty Tenkleff is finally freed after being wrongfully convicted and locked up for 17 years. Here's an Op-Ed by Philip Lerman, former co-executive producer of "America's Most Wanted.

The last sound my parents heard was the glass smashing against the wall, and the slam of the front door.

My stepsister Jackie, in a schizophrenia-fueled rage, had picked up the nearest object and flung it across the room before running off again, as she had so many times before; most likely to hop the train into Manhattan, to hang out on the streets until she cooled down, or got hungry, or both, at which time she'd come back home.

Only this time, she never came back.

That was 30 years ago; her disappearance and, as we came to believe, her murder (although her body was never found), remain unsolved.

And so it was with very mixed feelings that I received the news this week that the district attorney will not retry Marty Tankleff for the murder of his parents. My friends in New York all feel very relieved - proud, even - that a miscarriage of justice has been righted (though some, like the detectives involved in the case, feel otherwise). There is a fragile sense of order that is shattered, like that glass against the wall, when we hear that an innocent man sits behind bars for 17 years. And while we can never give Tankleff back those years, we at least feel a sense of fairness, of order restored, when that awful wrong is undone.

Continue reading...

June 25, 2008

Man convicted in grad student's rape, torture

Incredible story of a victim's resilience and justice swiftly served.


Supreme Court rejects death penalty for raping children

Thank goodness.


The Supreme Court has struck down a Louisiana law that allows the execution of people convicted of a raping a child.

In a 5-4 vote, the court says the law allowing the death penalty to be imposed in cases of child rape violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

"The death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion. His four liberal colleagues joined him, while the four more conservative justices dissented.

There has not been an execution in the United States for a crime that did not also involve the death of the victim in 44 years.

June 24, 2008

Deliberations begin in Columbia student rape and torture case

While running an errand to court today, I saw a gaggle of cameras and reporters and learned that deliberations begin today in the unimaginably horrible rape and torture case of a Columbia grad student.

June 20, 2008

Campus Crime Club funded by the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute: I think a certain club forgot to send me an invitation!!!!,/a>

May 28, 2008

John Jay Fall 2008 classes!

Excited for fall classes!!


May 22, 2008

Schoooooooooool's out. for. summer!!!!!!!

Update: No 'Where in the world is Andrea Harner?' photos available so I will just tell you that we are in St. Barth's and it is fantastique bien sur! We've made many fish friends whom we will post and introduce you to in a few days.

Just finished my last final and am now packing for a one week trip to a warm and splendid place thanks to incredibly generous friends!! I will post pictures and have you guess where I am!

Also, since we're BFF I wanted to update you on my summer plans. I am so excited to tell you that I have a summer job at an investigative firm!!! The name of the firm need not be disclosed, nor does my PI name :-) I will be working there from June through mid-August.

Hope everyone has a fantastic week and that New York's weather controller realizes it's time to move away from the rain and cold to sun and warmth!

May 13, 2008

Dressed for a Meeting, Ready for Mayhem by Christine Hauser, NY Times

I love this article for combining detectives and fashion - what more could a girl want??! Also, it makes clear what many people seem to have forgotten - that what you wear is what you convey to the world that you are! Remember when Juicy Couture sweat suits didn't exist??!! Those were the days. I practically gouge out my eyeballs every time I see one.


From his precinct on the fringes of Hell’s Kitchen, Detective Kevin P. Schroeder has cracked the case of a corpse in a Dumpster, wrestled a man into handcuffs on the sidewalk, and chased suspects across rooftops and down fire escapes.

When he prepares for a day at work, he puts his handgun in a holster, clips his cellphone and radio on his belt, and tucks handcuffs into his waistband, letting one of the cuffs dangle outside where he can easily grab it.

And then, in a well-worn tradition that has endured for more than a century, Detective Schroeder adds one more crucial piece of gear. He puts on a tailored suit jacket that has been cut with extra material around the waist.

That way, there are no unsightly bulges from gun and gear.

“I like room in it because of my pistol, my handcuffs, my radio,” Detective Schroeder said. “You want it a little bigger than you normally would get.”

“I try to wear my less expensive suits if I am going out to track a bad guy,” he added. Continue reading...

April 17, 2008

I am in FBI workshops all day today and tomorrow!

So far this seminar has been incredibly illuminating and engrossing! I want to be a forensic interviewer of children!

Forensic Interviewing of Children, Adolescents, and Adults
Sponsored by: The FBI New York Office Victim Assistance Program

Thursday, April 17, 2008

8:30 am - 8:45 am Sign In
8:45 am - 9:00 am Opening Remarks
9:00 am - 10:30 am Forensic Interviewing of Children and Adolescents,
Martha Finnegan, MSW, LCSW, Child Interview Specialist & Catherine S. Connell, MSW, ACSW, Child Interview Specialist
10:30 am - 10:45 am Break
10:45 am - 12:15 pm Martha Finnegan, MSW, LCSW, Child Interview Specialist & Catherine S. Connell, MSW, ACSW, Child Interview Specialist
12:15 pm - 1:15 pm Lunch (on your own)
1:15 pm - 3:15 pm Martha Finnegan, MSW, LCSW, Child Interview Specialist & Catherine S. Connell, MSW, ACSW, Child Interview Specialist
3:15 pm - 3:30 pm Break
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm Touring the Home of the Internet Child Pornography Pedophile, Special Agent Timothy Wittman
4:30 pm - 4:40 pm Interviewing Infants & Talking with Toddlers: Assessing Safety and Risk for Children Ages 0 - 3, Selina Higgins, LCSW-R, MSW, MA

Friday, April 18, 2008

8:30 am - 9:00 am Sign In
9:00 am - 10:30 am The Sexually Exploited Youth: Redefining Victimization,
Sharon Cooper, MD
10:30 am - 10:45 am Break
10:45 am - 12:15 pm Sharon Cooper, MD
12:15 pm - 1:15 pm Lunch (on your own)
1:15 pm - 2:45 pm Interviewing Parents and Other Adults Suspected
of Sexual Abuse of a Child
, David Mantell, Ph.D
2:45 pm - 3:00 pm Break
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm David Mantell, Ph.D

April 9, 2008

Is There No Place on Earth for Me? by Susan Sheehan

Over 20 years ago this book deservedly won the Pulitzer. What's unfortunate is that the experiences detailed in the book remain true to this day. Namely, schizophrenics try to find effective and affordable help, yet a solution remains painfully elusive and instead, they go in and out of the "revolving doors" of the mental health system. Former New Yorker writer Sheehan writes engagingly and with an investigators keen eye (my favorite combo!). It reads like one of those engrossing New Yorker profiles except it doesn't end as quickly! I couldn't recommend this book more.


March 20, 2008

Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas

This book is so enjoyable. It's packed full of the lessons this innovater learned while building the first behavioral sciences/criminal profiling unit in the world. Jonah commented that of course I am reading a book about serial killers as a break from studying for my forensic psychology midterms and that I do this before going to bed. Obsessed with all things forensic psychology and disturbed enough to upload it into my brain as I fall asleep. That's me in a (nutty) nutshell!


March 17, 2008

Psych & Law midterm in an hour

Wish me luck. And if you are interested check out the following:

Frye standard
Daubert and Federal Rules of Evidence
Dusky test
Civil commitment
Jackson v Indiana
Riggins v Nevada
M'Naghten test

January 30, 2008

Looking Anew At Campaign Cash And Elected Judges by Adam Liptak, NYTimes

Loved this article and the research question asked. The judges will surely squirm, at the very least, when the full article is published next month in the Tulane Law Review!


What "Psychopath" Means: It is not quite what you may think by Scott O. Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz

For those of you curious about what I've been learning at school, this is a cursory but good summary of psychopathy.

* via Scientific American Mind.

January 15, 2008

Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse by Steve Bogira

I am delighted my friend Eric was so right on when he suggested I read this book. It is written by an investigative journalist and delivers a thoughtful glimpse into our criminal court system by shadowing one judge and highlighting the stories of a handful of people that come into contact with this judge and his courtroom. I read it straight through on our flight to California for the holidays and finished it on the flight back. If this book interests you I am certain you will also enjoy another book written from a similar investigative and sociological perspective: Our Guys.


January 10, 2008

Spring 2008 Grad School Schedule!

I loved every minute of last semester (minus paper-writing and test-taking stress) and looking forward to my second semester which will consist of these classes:


December 18, 2007

Status: Three finals down, one left to go and then it's happy holidays time!!!

Remember when I used to blog??!!

Status: Three finals down, one left to go and then it's happy holidays time!!!

Remember when I used to blog??!!

December 17, 2007

Beware of perverts

While studying for my Criminal Behavior final I have later today I looked up a word I've never heard before - frottage in the context of sexual offenders and I found a sad state/sign of affairs in Japan:


December 11, 2007

Status: Studying for finals

The one luxury I still afford myself everyday is the NYT crossword puzzle! Have I converted anyone to this lifelong hobby? Hope so!

December 4, 2007

Status: One paper down, home stretch of the term paper

Here's something LOL in the meantime, courtesy of Beth Rosenberg!


TO: All Employees
DATE: October 01, 2007
RE: Christmas Party

I'm happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23, starting at noon in the private function room at the Grill House. There will be a cash bar and plenty of drinks! We'll have a small band playing traditional carols...feel free to sing along.
And don't be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa Claus! A Christmas tree will be lit at 1:00 pm. Exchange of gifts among employees can be done at that time; however, no gift should be over $10.00 to make the giving of gifts easy for everyone's pockets. This gathering is only for employees! Our CEO will make a special announcement at that time!

Merry Christmas to you and your family.


FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

TO: All Employees
DATE: October 02, 2007
RE: HolidayParty

In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Chanukah is an important holiday, which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year. However, from now on we're calling it our 'Holiday Party.' The same policy applies to any other employees who are not Christians or those still celebrating Reconciliation Day. There will be no Christmas tree present. No Christmas carols sung. We will have other types of music for your enjoym e nt.

Happy now?

Happy Holidays to you and your family.


FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

TO: All Employees
DATE : October 03, 2007
RE: HolidayParty

Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table ... you didn't sign your name. I'm happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that reads, 'AA Only'; you wouldn't be anonymous anymore. How am I supposed to handle this?


Forget about the gifts exchange, no gifts exchange are allowed since the union members feel that $10.00 is too much money and executives believe $10.00 is a little chintzy.


FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

TO: All Employees
DATE: October 04, 2007
RE: HolidayParty

What a diverse group we are! I had no idea that December 20 begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating and drinking during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon at this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees' beliefs. Perhaps the Grill House can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party - or else package everything for you to take it home in little foil doggy baggy. Will that work?
Meanwhile, I've arranged for members of Weight Watchers to sit farthest from
the dessert buffet and pregnant women will get the table closest to the restrooms.
Gays are allowed to sit with each other. Lesbians do not have to sit with Gay men, each will have their own table. Yes, there will be flower arrangement for the Gay men's table.
To the person asking permission to cross dress, no cross-dressing allowed, though. We will have booster seats for short people. Low-fat food will be available for those on a diet. We cannot control the salt used in the food we suggest for those people with high blood pressure to taste first. There will be fresh fruits as dessert for Diabetics, the restaurant cannot supply 'No Sugar' desserts. Sorry!

Did I miss anything?!?!?


FROM: : Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

TO: All Fucking Employees
DATE: October 05, 2007
RE: The Fucking HolidayParty

Vegetarian pricks I've had it with you people!!! We're going to keep this party at the Grill House whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the 'grill of death,' as you so quaintly put it, and you'll get your fucking salad bar, including organic tomatoes. But you know, tomatoes have feelings, too. They scream when you slice them. I've heard them scream. I'm hearing them scream right NOW ! I hope you all have a rotten holiday! Drive drunk and die,

The Bitch from HELL!!!!!!!!

FROM: Joan Bishop, Acting Human Resources Director

DATE : October 06, 2007
RE: &nbs p ;Patty Lewis and HolidayParty

I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Patty Lewis a speedy recovery and I'll continue to forward your cards to her. In the meantime, management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party.

November 27, 2007

Status: Struggling with support from psychological sources for parental rights advocacy paper

I've found one study showing that generally speaking foster care is worse than a child remaining with their abusive parents (sigh, the world can be depressing) which is good for my paper but other than that, I am left with legal and philosophical support only. I mean, how can psychological studies support the idea that parents should be able to deny their children medical treatment or a public school education?

Why did I choose this topic again??


November 26, 2007

Status: Term paper research

Topic: Advocating that parents have the final say in what's right for their children.

I'm looking into Christian Science refusal of medical treatment, the victory of the Amish community in being exempted from sending their children to school past eight grade, parental right to homeschool, and female circumcision.

Any brilliant thoughts are appreciated!

October 23, 2007

Have not stopped studying all day!

Midterm 3 of 4 (Social Psychology and the Legal System) is tomorrow at 2pm and last midterm (Statistics) is Monday evening.

I miss blogging!

I plan to blog tomorrow night with a glass of wine in hand.

Nighty night,

October 12, 2007

False Confessions by Saul Kassin, John Jay School of Criminal Justice '07


This was a fantastic talk. I mean, why on earth would an innocent person confess to a crime he/she didn't commit??!! For as long as I can remember I've been reading about this stuff so I knew about The Innocence Project (only reason I ever wanted to go to law school was to work for them!) and the frightening number of people they've successfully exonerated thanks to DNA (keep in mind that if and only if the crime you were falsely convicted of still has intact, testable DNA, often after decades, could you even harbor the remote possibility of being exonerated). What I didn't know continues to shock me to this day. Did you know that interrogators are legally allowed to present false information to a suspect in order to secure a confession????????!!!!!!!!! Here's an example from the well-publicized case of Marty Tankleff. Marty was 17, 17 years ago and awoke in his house to discover his mother and father lying in pools of blood. Right away he was nabbed the prime suspect even though there was another person who was glaringly obvious as the real prime suspect but we won't visit that aspect here. His mother was pronounced dead on the scene and his father who was barely still alive was rushed to the hospital. Marty was interrogated using the standard physical and psychological deprivation techniques I'm sure you all know just from watching Law & Order but basically you're deprived of any physical and psychological comforts like extra clothing, jewelry or belongings, you are stripped to your basic necessities, have no visible phone as a reminder of contact to the outside world and you are only given minimal water, food and bathroom privileges. On top of this, imagine Marty having just learned that his mom is dead and his dad is near death. After hours of unsuccessfully trying to get Marty to confess, one of the detectives, likely the bad cop in the routine (Mutt & Jeff routine is what we call it in grad school), left the room supposedly to take a call and upon returning tells Marty that his father has emerged from his coma and has named Marty as the murderer. Marty fell apart and thought if his own Dad said he did it, he must have done it and not remembered it. The "good cop" then wrote up a confession for Marty to sign but when it came time to sign it, he came to and refused. Nevertheless the harm had been done and Marty is on record as partially confessing. To this day, the "good cop" who was present when the "bad cop" came in with news from the hospital, says that what he heard about Marty's dad seemed so real he even believed it at the time and only found out later it was a lie. Marty's dad never awoke from his coma and died two weeks later. Still, the partial confession, garnered out of a straight up, bold-faced LIE, still stands and the Innocence Project is fighting to free Marty who has already done 17 years for a crime he didn't commit. There are numerous examples like this one that highlight the deeply disturbing fact that it is entirely legal to lie in order to gain a confession from a suspect. And of course while lies are being used to gain false confessions, real murderers remain free.

September 26, 2007

Kitty, 40 Years Later by Jim Rasenberger, NY Times

Part of last week's reading assignment for my Social Psychology & The Legal System class is this article about the infamous Kitty Genovese murder over 40 years ago in Queens during which there were supposedly more than 30 witnesses, none of which stopped the crime.

Kew Gardens does not look much like the setting of an urban horror story. Nestled along the tracks of the Long Island Rail Road, 16 minutes by train from Pennsylvania Station, the Queens neighborhood is quiet and well kept, its streets shaded by tall oaks and bordered by handsome red-brick and wood-frame houses. At first glance, the surroundings appear as remote from big-city clamor as a far-flung Westchester suburb.

Forty years ago, on March 13, 1964, the picturesque tranquillity of Kew Gardens was shattered by the murder of 28-year-old Catherine Genovese, known as Kitty. The murder was grisly, but it wasn't the particulars of the killing that became the focus of the case. It was the response of her neighbors. As Ms. Genovese screamed -- ''Please help me! Please help me!'' -- 38 witnesses did nothing to intervene, according to reports; nobody even bothered to call the police. One witness later explained himself with a phrase that has passed into infamy: ''I didn't want to get involved.''continued...

* Thanks to the New York Times for opening up their archives!!

September 5, 2007

Stare decisis: The Legal Term & The Band

I've been buried in law reading for the past few days which has been new, challenging and exhilarating! While getting into the nitty gritty of stare decisis I was reminded of a brilliant idea I had a few months ago: A band that plays great cover songs (precedents) and ready?? The band's name...Starry Decisis.


Starry obviously has to be spelled as such because it's cooler that way. I'm thinking Motown, Elvis...Let me know if want in!

August 30, 2007

Kirschner's Criminal Behavior class: Interesting question posed on first day

And the answer is...155!! Isn't that shocking?? And of those, 41 won. Thanks for playing!!

Between 1988 and 1997 there were roughly 96,000 felony indictments in New York so on average, just under 10,000 per year during this 10 year span. Of the 96,000 cases, how many defendants entered a not guilty plea by reason of insanity or diminished capacity? They don't need to have won the case. Simply, of the 96,000 homicide cases tried in New York, how many of these pleas were entered during this time?

Let me know what you think and I'll post the answer. Then, I'll tell you of those cases, how many won!

Second day of grad school update

I am pleased to report that my second day of classes was great as well! Social Psychology and the Law was the class I was most looking forward to and it didn't disappoint. We will be reading lots of legal cases and doing mock trials in class! Our term paper will be written in the style of a legal brief. I couldn't be more excited. My last class is Developmental Psychology which also seems good albeit a little less exciting. We'll be learning all the messy details that comprise our stages of psychological development as well as school violence. The thought crossed my mind today more than once, how fantastic it is and how fortunate I am to be studying the precise subjects I'm most interested in!

August 28, 2007

First day of grad school update

My first two classes, Psych of Criminal Behavior and Statistics were fantastic and my Criminal Behavior professor charmed me off my feet! I had just purchased a globe so I walked into class carrying a big box. I suppose I could have alluded to the box containing my ex-boyfriend's head but I held back. It was only my first day of class!

For those of you curious what my courses are this semester click here.

Finally, did you know that John Jay (since it's a CUNY school) is costing me Jonah $3000 a semester, $6000 a year??!! Pretty great huh?? Yeah CUNY! YEAH JONAH!!

June 1, 2007

Fall 2007 classes at John Jay!

Man it feels good to be registered! I've been realizing recently how much I have loved being back in school. Can't wait to get my dirty paws on these subjects in the fall!


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