Quadruple search today: “how to cross examine a sociopath”

I often get searches asking how to beat a sociopath in court. I keep intending on writing a “major post” but haven’t gotten around to it. The short answer to both searches is that I don’t know. So here’s a thinking aloud post.

In trying to answer “How to cross-examine a sociopath?” I’m aiming at jarring the sociopath into revealing their true self. I’m trying to find that “cape of red,”  that challenge that can’t go unanswered.

Unfortunately, this still will not usually happen. I’ve worked at a number of law firms, and for the times I’d hear, “The opposing party has a real temper, we’ll try to get him to blow up on the stand,” I rarely heard of it actually happening.  However, I’m betting it happens more often with sociopaths. The prosecution team must have thought they had died and gone to heaven when Wayne Williams said, “You want to see the real Wayne Williams, I’ll show you the real Wayne Williams.” So here goes:

1. All sociopaths are in a state of arrested development. Try to figure out where personality development stopped (from 6 to 12, more or less) for that individual. Target your approach for that age.

2. The sociopath will have a child’s emotional hypersensitivity corresponding to that age. Recall Clinton’s airplane seating takedown of Newt Gingrich (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19951116&slug=2152925, http://www.thewire.com/politics/2012/01/where-crybaby-gingrich-meme-came/47093/, https://pathwhisperer.info/2012/03/01/frequent-search-newt-gingrich-sociopath-fer-shure-fer-shure/).

3. Since sociopaths live in a pejorative universe, state things as pejoratively as possible. What’s important to them are the emotions behind the words, words themselves are simply tools. In Keith Morrison’s interview of David Hampton (the subject of Six Degrees of Separation), David Hampton was essentially bragging about his lying prowess. Morrison then said (paraphrasing) ‘you know what I think? I think you’re nothing but a goddamn liar‘. David Hampton then threw his glass of wine in Keith Morrison’s face. I believe it was that derisive ‘goddamn liar‘ and its negative connotations that did it.

Once I was called into HR (at Lehman Brothers) for handing out 8-10 pages (from Hare’s Without Conscience and Cleckley’s Mask of Sanity) to friends on recognizing sociopaths. (I wouldn‘t do this again, there is no way to learn that from reading material alone.) When I told the SVP why, she suddenly started screaming at me, ‘we have 15,000 employees, of course we have sociopaths working here’ — and then she collected herself. This sociopathic SVP interpreted my comment as criticism of sociopaths working there, imo, and this was too threatening to maintain ‘her cool’.  In this case, it was regarding one of the two most monstrous sociopaths I’ve ever known.

4. From both David Hampton and that SVP I concluded that the self control of a sociopath is only relative, that it is difficult for them and can slip at any time under the right pressure. That’s what the cross examiner should aim for. (I also concluded from that SVP that sociopaths recognize and protect each other. If at all possible screen the jury to prevent the seating of fellow sociopaths.)

Ask medical or dental personnel how often they run into patients who attack them upon their giving injections.  This is one point where the curtain is ripped away and the sociopath (some sociopaths) will react like an animal under attack — all self control is thrown aside by the dictates of self defense.

5. Show as much disrespect as you can get away with.  In sociopathic biker/criminal gangs no one lights another’s cigarette just to be friendly.  It is all defined by the food chain pecking order.  Similarly being polite is taken as respect for their place on the food chain vis-a-vis yourself.  We were all taught to do unto others as we would have done unto us — this is totally misunderstood by sociopaths.  Speaking for myself, I was raised a Quaker and I find it almost impossible not be stay polite.  However, looking back, there were definitely times when that was a mistake.

6. Sociopaths are very elemental. Such simplistic tactics as having someone stare at them can be very unsettling for them.  Or put together a legal team of big, imposing individuals.  They seem to think that the civilized world is only onion skin thin and at any time the world could revert to the law of the jungle.  You want them to stay off kilter.

7. Depending on the circumstances, the cross examiner may want to let the sociopath ramble in order to disclose their arrogance and disordered thinking.  Rodney Alcala (https://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/psychopath-on-tape-rodney-alcala/), Rabbi Israel Weingarten (https://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/incest-dad-represents-self-in-court-cross-examines-daughter/), and Jon Alexander (https://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/2008/11/15/october-and-november-items-with-that-sociopathic-flavor/, http://www.popeater.com/2009/09/01/top-model-designer-gets-life-in-prison/ http://www.fashionlurve.com/tag/anand-jon-alexander/) did themselves no favors by being their own counsel.  Imo, their mistake was not imagining they could lose, being pathologically optimistic.

8.  Find a way to call out a sociopathic party or witness for fake tears and grief.  Of course it is considered bad form to question another’s expression of grief but this is a tactic sociopaths use all the time.  Recall Steinbrenner’s “tears” on the stand, or Jesse James’ recent performance, http://www.popeater.com/2010/05/21/jesse-james-nightline-video .

9.  Read The Psychopath’s Bible, http://www.scribd.com/doc/11554313/The-Psychopaths-Bible (or if you can find one, read the original).  This is one of the most stunning things in the world, it’s absolutely for real.  As the psychopathic authors attest:  “One of the axioms of life is this: even if you tell the truth—perhaps because you tell the truth—no one will believe you.”  Well, I believe them.

These later posts might also be of interest:  https://pathwhisperer.info/2015/09/30/teasing-truth-out-of-communications-with-psychopaths/, https://pathwhisperer.info/2017/04/11/from-quora-select-paras-from-how-do-you-bring-down-a-psychopath-psychologically/.

Bernie Madoff, probable sociopath, following in the footsteps of Charles Ponzi, definite sociopath

Ah, the fruits of an economy that gives corporations sociopathic freedoms. The economy is such a perfect match to sociopathic skills that it is hard to believe it wasn’t designed by sociopaths.  If a corporate liars culture is allowed to develop, sociopaths will take it to the limit and beyond. Sociopaths are incapable of self regulation, they need adult supervision (literally, due to their existing in an arrested development state — morally,  judgementwise, personality, sexually, etc.).

Bernard Madoff

Bernard Madoff

Charles Ponzi

Charles Ponzi

Quoting Mike Lupica’s NY Daily News column, Unbridled greed chips away at last remnants of the American Dream, http://www.nydailynews.com/money/2008/12/14/2008-12-14_unbridled_greed_chips_away_at_last_remna.html:

There is an old line from Fay Vincent, the baseball commissioner who suspended George Steinbrenner for conspiring with a known gambler, Howie Spira. Steinbrenner paid Spira to get some dirt on Dave Winfield, for whom Steinbrenner had no use, and Vincent caught him doing that and kicked him out of the game.

Vincent said at the time that Steinbrenner had heard no moral alarm because “none sounded.”

There was no moral alarm for Bernie Madoff as he systematically ruined fortunes and pension funds, and ultimately lives, and didn’t get stopped until now. He is the biggest thief we know about, but only for now, because he is caught. You wonder how many more like him end up in orange jumpsuits before this is over.

I love that phrase, “no moral alarm sounded” — never does for sociopaths, must be quite an advantage over us.

Attorney Mark Mulholland (representing Madoff investors), http://www.nydailynews.com/money/2008/12/14/2008-12-14_new_jersey_couple_joins_heartbreak_list_.html:

“He had this polished, magnetic approach that made folks want to invest their money with him. Everyone wanted in. From time to time, he would also reject potential investors. That just made other folks even more keen on getting into the Madoff fund.”

What a con! Folksy, magnetic. Laid a trail of candy for his marks to follow.

I have often heard it remarked that these conmen are soft sell artists.  I believe that is only superficially true.  I think that they are actually using all their abilities and concentration.  One way of looking at it is that they are running quintuple time mentally, so much so that they appear relaxed and nonchalant on the surface.  I once knew a sociopathic Don Juan who was so talented that his targets thought they seduced him, but really he was that far ahead of them (all the while adjusting his personality to his reading of the mark’s ideal and again laying a trail of bread crumbs/candy).

Top rank sociopaths are so good at what they do that their manipulations approach the realm of “weaving reality.” I would predict that Madoff approached this level.  When I was in management at E.F. Hutton I hired a couple of sociopaths.  One had eyes that were just pools of trustworthiness – it was almost impossible not to trust him.  In turned out that he was a fraud, he couldn’t do half the things he had said he could do.  Obviously I should have tested him more.  The other one also interviewed very well, including great eye contact.  Hutton went out of business soon after, I later heard that he had been fired as a psychopath by a law firm.  He was said to be a workplace bully and a puppetmaster manipulator whose specialty was turning people against each other and getting individuals fired.

Charles Ponzi was so smooth that many victims begged the government to set him free to continue his magic. Apparently, sociopaths gain this persuasiveness and manipulative ability due to a different brain structure.

Habitual Liar Brains Look Different On Scans

Adrian Raine and Yaling Yang have found that habitual liars have more white matter and less gray matter in their brains as compared to less lie-prone people. [ emphasis in original]


Finally, I would recommend paying close attention to those regulatory officials who gave Madoff a pass or looked the other way.  Due to both personal experience with corporate human resource departments and outside observations I believe that sociopaths recognize and protect each other, even to the extent that non-criminal sociopaths will often protect criminal sociopaths.

More Madoff:

How could Madoff not have made any trades for 13 years?

More Madoff — for sociopaths there is no such thing as an ingroup

Earlier posts:

Welcome to our sociopaths-gone-wild-economy

Commonalities between Wall Street speculators and/or Fed bankers and sociopaths

Low hanging fruit – the idiots who lead America