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Friday, November 18, 2016

The mindset of someone acting as his own lawyer

The previous post mentioned that serial killer Steven Gordon acting as his own lawyer was a peculiarly sociopathic hallmark.

To fully fathom how different a sociopath is, put yourself in that situation for a moment. Imagine that you've committed a terrible crime, your life is on the line, and you need representation. Wouldn't your instincts be to put yourself in the hands of an expert, or at the very least, let one help you? In those circumstances, you need someone who knows the law, who knows the ins and outs of a courtroom, who has some sense of the local judge, and who's familiar with all the intricacies and technicalities associated with legal procedure. can do a better job.

When you board a commercial flight, is your instinct to saunter into the cockpit and say, "You can relax now, fellas. I'll take charge here. Don't worry, I've got this under control."

When you go into a dentist's office, are you tempted to say, "Just hold the mirror for me, I'd feel more comfortable drilling my own teeth"?

When you go for a colonoscopy, do you say, "Hey, don't bother with the anesthesia, I'll just put the tube in and cut off the polyps myself"?

When you see a couple of police officers making an arrest, do you step in and say, "It's okay guys, I'll take it from here"?

The thought of doing these things seems insanely arrogant.

That's the difference between you and a sociopath.

Now, admittedly, even sociopaths don't drill their own teeth, or pretend to be able to fly a plane (Frank Abagnale, upon whom Catch Me If You Can was based, appears to be the rare exception.) But the next time you hear of someone acting as his own lawyer, especially someone with no legal training, keep these analogies in mind.

And be aware, he's almost certainly a sociopath.


The Ambivalent Misanthrope said...

I think the proclivity of sociopaths to be their own counsel at trial stems from their paranoia. Sociopaths are always paranoid --- because they always have something to hide. When they go to trial, they tend to think that all lawyers work together, regardless of the 'side' they are officially taking. The sociopath cannot conceive that his lawyer is bound by his rules of his profession to represent his client to the best of his ability and that if he neglects to do so, he is risking his professional license and livelihood. Apparently a sociopath doesn't think that's enough of an incentive. For him it wouldn't be.

John Craig said...

Ambivalent Misanthrope --
That could be part of the explanation too, but when you think about it, most criminal defendants have something to hide. Yet you never see, say, Mob guys acting as their own counsel. It's always people like Gordon, or Ted Bundy, or Colin Ferguson. (Not that Mob guys aren't frequently sociopathic as well.)

It's true that all people project, and so sociopaths would assume everyone else is as disloyal and dishonest as they are. But....I do think that most of them would realize that a lawyer would have to be on his side, no matter how personally repulsed the lawyer is by him.

The Ambivalent Misanthrope said...

Excellent point. Sociopath mob guys don't do that represent-themselves lunacy. Perhaps it's the extreme 'loner' sociopath is the type to do it. His isolation impacts his judgment that much more? Members of the mob are still a brotherhood of sorts and loyalties and group pressure have their impact... I am not sure --- just thinking out loud.

GT said...

Maybe it's the extreme narcissism that has them believing they can out smart, intimidate or manipulate any witness, judge or jury. I could see this as a big game for them; think Ted Bundy. They are the center of attention commanding the room and getting the pleasure of cross examining the very victims of their crimes. Getting one last chance to torture their victims before closing with an argument that would certainly prove their innocents. With extreme narcissism could they see it any other way?

John Craig said...

Ambivalent Misanthrope --
I'm not positive either, but I'd be surprised if arrogance isn't a big part of the equation. Sociopaths always think they can fool people, even when they can't.

John Craig said...

GT --
I think you're exactly on target. BTW, I wrote my 2:40 reply to Ambivalent Misanthrope before seeing your comment, but we agree completely. And you make a great point about the opportunity to torture their victims -- or victims' relatives -- one last time. Plus you're invoking intimidation and manipulation, which I also hadn't thought of; I was thinking purely in terms of them thinking they could outsmart everyone else.

Anonymous said...

"But the next time you hear of someone acting as his own lawyer, especially someone with no legal training, keep these analogies in mind. And be aware, he's almost certainly a sociopath."

Or poor. Since the government cut back on legal aid, there's been a surge in people representing themselves in court. They don't necessarily lose: I know of many cases of poor people successfully representing themselves, usually after months of preparing.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
I think things are different in the UK and here. In the US, if you can't afford a lawyer, you'll be appointed a public defender, who is paid by the government.

Anonymous said...

Ah, that's different then. In the 'Anarchist Cookbook' (which I only read out of academic interest!), it explicitly advises defendants never to represent themselves in a criminal trial because judges get annoyed and are more likely to hand out harsher sentences. I guess sociopaths trying to represent themselves without experience or preparation waste a lot of the court's time and make cardinal errors that even first-year law students know not to make. Which is probably a good thing for society if it causes judges to imprison them for longer.

- Gethin

Anonymous said...

I tattooed myself.
I have pulled my own teeth.
I wouldn't mind being my own lawyer.
I do learnedly disregard medical advice WITH SOME SUCCESS so far.
But yeah I am a psychopath though.

You are doing good work, Mister Craig.
Now that Trump has been elected, when are you going to run for office? Or do we have to try to get Trump to appoint you to some position, before you too will join in making America great again?

====Fake Baba

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Ah, hadn't thought of the angle, but it makes sense, judges would get annoyed. I've never heard of a single case where a defendant represented himself where it turned out well for the defendant. Of course, most of those cases were for capital murder, often multiple murders, and the evidence was overwhelming anyway.

John Craig said...

Fake Baba --
Ha, I'll never run for office. You like the blog because it's honest, but honesty is pretty much of a disqualifying factor for anyone who wants to run for office. Plus, to be honest, I'm better on paper than in person. But thank you.

Alter Ego said...

Looks like Dylann Roof might represent himself too:

John Craig said...

Alter Ego --
Thanks, hadn't heard that.

Uh oh.

Roof doesn't look like a scary guy, but it just goes to show, sociopaths come in all shapes an dishes.