One of the good things about the conviction of Jerry Sandusky on almost all counts related to molesting 10 boys was that his lame personality disorder defense did not fly.
Histrionic personality disorder? Huh? That was the prevailing reaction when defense attorneys claimed that the former Penn State assistant football coach wrote those “creepy” letters because he suffers from histrionic personality disorder.
Several experts in personality disorders were quoted in news reports stating that even if Sandusky does have histrionic personality disorder, it would not be an excuse for the molestation.
It’s quite simple: Most people with personality disorders are not delusional. Those with antisocial, borderline, narcissistic and yes, histrionic personality disorders are not “hearing voices” or out of touch with reality. (By the way, the American Psychiatric Association is in the process of revising its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Histrionic personality disorder isn’t even included in the new version.)
Over and over, Lovefraud readers tell me about outrageous deceit, manipulation and conscienceless behavior in their own interactions with personality-disordered individuals. Here is the common denominator: Sociopaths know exactly what they are doing. They just feel entitled to do what they want, and do not care who gets hurt in the process.
I was worried about the introduction of “personality disorder” as a defense in a criminal trial. Because it was permitted in the Sandusky case, would it open the door for all the defense attorneys in the country to blame their clients’ crimes on personality disorders? This would be a serious problem, because researchers estimate that 47 percent of male and 21 percent of female prison inmates have antisocial personality disorder.
For the most part, people with personality disorders are quite capable of making choices about their behavior. They know the difference between right and wrong, although they may have no emotional investment in doing what is right. They can follow society’s rules and laws when it suits their purpose.
Jerry Sandusky was convicted. I hope this continues to mean that when these disordered people commit crimes, they won’t be able to get off by claiming the psychological equivalent of, “the devil made me do it.”