Friday, June 15, 2012

In Trial For Killing Of 77 Norway Very Complexed About Whether Admitted Perpetrator Is Barking Mad

Posted by Peter Quennell

[Above and below: this is the courthouse in central Oslo where Anders Breivik is currently been tried]

In Norway a judge and jury and those tens of thousands personally affected by the bombing and shooting deaths of 77 people, mostly in their teens, are trying to calibrate the personality of Anders Breivik.

The self-confessed killer has under Norwegian court procedures been allowed to say a lot about himself during his trial. And to mount a defense which in effect implies that he is the one who is normal, and that everybody else in Norway is either stupid or blind.

There is a sort of Catch 22 situation here.

If the judge and jury and those affected accept that Breivik really IS normal and merely a common or garden Nazi-type fanatic, he can only be sentenced to 21 years x 77 with the sentences to run concurrently. He could be out of prison at only 54.

Even Breivik has said that is pathetic and he would be joyously executed rather than be diminished like that.

But if they accept that he is insane, then he can be sent away to a prison for the criminally insane, and unless he in effect grows a totally new brain, he could be kept locked up for the rest of his natural life.

So if prosecution psychologists can prove him to be what the British like to call barking mad, he could get in effect the maximum time behind bars: life. But blame for a deed which most see as pure evil would in effect be dilute.

Breivik of course is trying very hard to prove that he is NOT mad. But he is not being helped by the testimony of either his mother or his father (who separated in great anger in London a few months after he was born) who have each thoroughly rejected his defense. His mother says he simply lies all the time, and his father says he should have committed suicide.

Nor is he helped by the 1517 page manifesto that he wrote (in English) and emailed to everybody in his address book a few hours before he set out on his attack. 

Dr Avner Falk lives in Jerusalem, Israel, and he is perhaps the most published in the world in the fields of long-distance psychohistory and political psychology. 

On his personal website Dr Falk has just posted this long and deeply researched essay exploring Breivik’s psychology.

Although of course the analysis was done 1/4 of the way around the world, it is difficult to read this essay without concluding that these really are the main facts about what is in Breivik’s head - and that he really is barking mad.

More scientifically, his psychology seems situated somewhere between borderline personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenic.

Dr Falk shows how Breivik may have got that way, and what was driving him to kill (don’t laugh, read the essay first: he became psychotically angered over repeated shows of lack of love by his father, who when Breivek was 16 cut him right off, and too much love by his mom, which Breivek thinks sissyfied him).

And why it would seem to be the safest thing to do to put Breivek away for life.   

So. Is any of this relevant to Meredith’s case? More below.

In Meredith’s case there also seems to be a sort of Catch 22.

First off, it seems that nobody holding any point of view about Knox or Sollecito can see the makings of a credible insanity defense.

One reason many dont want to go down that road is that Italian prosecutions are always facing long odds, and they fear that it could too easily at the end of the legal process leave the accused-perps off the hook and free to go, and to publish whatever they will.

Some fear the same could happen with a defense based on too much alcohol or psychosis-causing drugs.

But at the same time, many also believe that AK and RS were not the social and psychological paragons that many in the obfuscatory PR campaign have tried for a long time to make out.

Even those eager henchmen in Curt Knox’s campaign have had to turn cartwheels to explain why Knox did cartwheels and so quickly put so many people in Perugia right off her, or to explain why Sollecito was so friendless and so obsessed with violent comics and porn and always carried a concealed knife.

And yet despite that, a sort of stealth psychological defense DOES seem to have been mounted, and with Judge Hellman’s interim appeal verdict it does seem to have helped them to be provisionally sprung.

In a process a little reminiscent of the movie Groundhog Day where the “villain” has to keep repeating the same day over and over until he gets certain things just right, the public audience and the judges and juries were presented with several different Amanda Knoxes and Raffaele Sollecitos and the 2011 versions seem to have worked.

  • In 2008 the images that dominated were of two cold-hearted or hot-headed jealous abusers who had gone way too far in the remorseless 15-minute struggle with Meredith. Magistrate Matteini and Judge Micheli both firmly took this view, which was confirmed by psychological tests on RS and AK in Capanne Prison that concluded that Perugia would be safer if they stayed behind bars pending their trial.
  • The images that dominated the trial in 2009 was of a mild and slightly daffy Sollecito and a mostly milder and decidedly daffier Amanda Knox, strongly supported by their large and loving families spread out all around the court. That seems to some extent to have worked on Judge Massei, and RS and AK were rewarded with some years off their sentence for a supposed kindness to Meredith’s dead body. In the sentencing report, Rudy Guede became the somewhat villainous initiating attacker of Meredith on the night.
  • The image that dominated the appeal in 2011 was of two serious studious very normal bambinos falsely being tied together with an extremely villainous Rudy Guede, now a notorious drifter and drug dealer who carried knives. The accused in effect dressed in shades of grey, and there were never any smiles or jokes in court. Italian judges and juries and watching audiences have a reputation for leniency toward bambinos, and Judge Hellman’s report suggests that attitude did intrude.

The Italian Supreme Court doesnt usually get to set eyes on those who are appealing or (as in this case) appealed against. More often than not they calibrate a legal and psychological position about as hard-line as the investigating magistrate (Matteini) or the judges at the first level (Micheli and Massei).

Now Knox and Sollecito might not return to the court for any re-run of the appeal trial. But if they don’t, the original images of themselves, those advanced in 2008 which a clear majority of Italians still hold to, could be the version of their personalities that a second appeal judge and jury get to “see”.

Tough call for Knox and Sollecito and their tribes. Their Catch 22.

But either way, assuming a level playing field, a fair outcome seems reasonably assured.


Below: a crowd of 40,000 gathered in central Oslo to sing a song “Children of the Rainbow”.

That is the song by Norwegian folk singer Lillebjoern Nilsen (based on Pete Seeger’s “Rainbow Race”) which Breivek claimed in his manifesto shows the decadence of Norwegian youth. 

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/15/12 at 01:47 PM in Various hypothesesThe psychologyThe legal followups


Posted by Miriam on 06/18/12 at 11:39 PM | #

You may have already seen that Breivik’s trial wrapped up in Oslo today and that the prosecution has asked for an insanity verdict when it is announced on 24 August.

Here is one long attempt at a summary of where the prosecution and the defence experts stand on Breivek’s state of mind and what two experts concluded from his mother (psychosis and paranoid schizophrenia).

My guess is that in Jerusalem Dr Falk will stick to his guns, and repeat that the condition he argues affects Breivik has fooled many people previously.

Can anyone think of another case where the prosecution is arguing that the perp is mentally impaired and the defense is saying, no, he was quite sane?  That sure is an unusual role reversal.

In Salt Lake City, the kidnapped girl Elizabeth Smart had to wait years for a trial and a verdict because the defense experts in that case all argued that the perp was a nut.

In fact he was faking it, and the prosecution caught him out a number of times. Is Breivik faking being sane? He sure is trying hard.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/22/12 at 09:37 PM | #

Hi Miriam. I fixed the link.

No mention of the 800 pound gorilla of an appeal. Maybe that is what this is really about. Another PR move. Showing she is not afraid to come back and attempt her supposed magic on a new appeal jury.

I wouldnt bet on it. No doubt at the last minute a busy work schedule will intervene. What happened to the ghost writer of the book? Did he take off on her already?

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/22/12 at 09:46 PM | #

I don’t see that she is actually “planning” anything. It is just some fame hungry “friend” rambling on about how she “dreams of the day” when she can return. Not exactly what I’d call planning. I dream of the day when I can give up my job and travel around the world staying in 5 star hotels, but I can’t claim I am “planning” anything. It is just a PR stunt to keep her in the news because everyone knows people are losing interest in her rapidly. At this rate, noone will buy her book and hence all these misleading, non-news headlines….

Posted by Sara on 06/24/12 at 05:23 AM | #

Hi Sara.

I do suspect this is a deliberate move by Curt Knox’s floundering PR machine.

As you point out, the interest does need to be sustained to have the slightest hope of selling any books. They must somehow try to convey she is normal though all signs suggest she is not. This has to be the only recent claim of an “official kidnapping” in history where the “victim” has been kept very far away away from reporters and TV cameras. So her “proof of normal” wishes and dreams need somehow to be put out there.

But the greater problem is what do to with her when the prosecution appeal gets into full swing.  No way she can hint now that she is afraid to return, that way the house of cards comes down.

At the same time if she does return she will be expected to get on the stand under full unfettered cross examination, something she has never done. (The mid-2009 stint on the stand had strong ground rules because it was meant to be only about her framing Patrick; even Hellman couldnt excuse what she said then and handed her a three-year sentence.) The Catch 22.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/24/12 at 02:01 PM | #

Good post with much to ponder here.

What Erich Fromm (if I recall—it’s been decades) speaks of as “dehumanization” is very much to the forefront in Breivik’s case. A case which might be said to show the insufficiency of our distinction between sanity & mental disease & abnormality.

Knox is too well integrated to be called insane or dehumanized—yet exactly the qualities of insanity & dehumanization were at work in her attack on Meredith.

The old gal I walk my dog with (plenty smart & scientifically educated) fairly laughs at me for thinking the Supreme Court may find her guilty at last (ie, re-submit her case for yet another appeal.)  No chance of it in her book.

Thanks to MIRIAM for the Daily Record news item on Amanda. A series of calculated & carefully timed news bits on Amanda issued under the publisher’s fiat, maybe?

Posted by Ernest Werner on 06/24/12 at 02:52 PM | #

Ernest Werner,

“The old gal I walk my dog with (plenty smart & scientifically educated) fairly laughs at me for thinking the Supreme Court may find her guilty at last (ie, re-submit her case for yet another appeal.)  No chance of it in her book.”

I agree - it is very unlikely, but possible in principle. They have their own reasons that have no connections with official records.

Posted by chami on 06/24/12 at 07:29 PM | #

The verdict in Breievek’s case is due in a few hours. Evil or nuts? He could get put away for life if he is found nuts but theoretically could be released in 25 years ifg found evil but sane. l.

While Knox is (we presume) no serial killer or mass murderer this is worth reading for possible insights.

Knox’s early days of one parent abandoning and continued extreme parent feuding were rather similar to what the young Breivek went through.


Added Friday.  Today Breivek was found sane and guilty which is what he and most of those affected wanted. He is unlikely to ever get out in his lifetime as Norwegian law says he stays in if considered still a risk to the public.

He gets a right to a computer but no Internet. What a monster, out there shooting mainly children. How was THAT meant to advance any possible cause? Norwegian law is changed now, to make tracking nuts easier.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 08/24/12 at 05:36 AM | #
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