Posts Tagged ‘michael swango’


DRD2 A1, DRD4 7-repeat, 5HTTLPR/rs25531, COMPT (or COMT) Met108/158, MAOA-L (corrections welcome).

So, . . .which one, if any of these, is the no fellow-human-feeling, no empathy, no guilt gene, . . .where do full-genetic-dose psychopaths such as Stacey Castor or Michael Swango fall on this (actually they are not full spectrum full dose psychopaths — they did have the capacity to exercise restraint and to strategize, but on the other-humans-are-just-bugs continuum they are full dose)?

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Since this is a frequent search that finds me and since I’ve only had one image, here are a few others.

Blind Eye: The Terrifying Story Of A Doctor Who Got Away With Murder

Michael Swango: Doctor of Death

Wikipedia entry on Michael Swango

This individual is an extreme example of the “alien masquerading as a human” level psychopath.

I have my own six-degrees-of-separation connection to Dr. Swango.  One of Michael Swango’s waypoints was his conning Alan Miller, M.D.,  into admitting him into a psychiatry training program.  Alan Miller essentially made my father’s career (I met him as my father’s boss during my school years).  His recognition of my father’s talent and his promoting him was what led to my father becoming a state commissioner of mental health himself.  I have both respect and affection for Dr. Miller.

I have seen comments and received one myself that diagnosing psychopaths should be left to psychiatrists.  Yet here, an extremely able and intelligent psychiatrist was unable to recognize Swango as a psychopath.  In my opinion, Michael Swango is immediately recognizable as a psychopath.  There is simply no soul behind his eyes.

Those with eyes can see, those without, cannot.  Western education in general tries to forbid “emotional reading” or “soul sensitivity.”  I can’t see how anything in MD training is of any help in the training of a therapist.  They’d be better off spending the years reading great novels, seeing great plays (or reading them) and movies and then discussing the motivations of the human soul.

The secular soul is that part of the psyche that dreams and never lies, the seat of the deepest wants, desires and instincts.  Psychopaths/sociopaths simply never develop a complex adult soul.  This is reflected in their lives, behavior and even their eyes.

In my opinion, the long criminal career of Dr. Swango represented an egregious failure of both our justice and mental health systems.  There was enough evidence from his early contacts with the law to recognize him as a dangerous psychopath even though there was not enough evidence for a legal win.  He should have faced involuntary commitment as a danger to society criminally insane psychopath.   Obviously this would have depended on publicly witnessed behaviors and checklist type items, not an individual (such as myself) saying ‘well, my subconscious says he’s a psychopath.’  I present that approach simply as a life tool, not as a legal or involuntary commitment tool.

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Over the weekend I watched the documentary, “48 Hours Mystery:” Rodney Alcala’s Killing Game — A Serial Killer’s 40-Year Odyssey of Rape, Murder and Eluding Justice, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/09/25/48hours/main6901067.shtml.  I found it fascinating and valuable.  Once again however, it was a major media story on a psychopath that didn’t use the word psychopath.  Why is that?  The media just refuses to educate the public about psychopaths.  Perhaps if some of his victims (at least the older ones) knew of psychopathy as something they were likely to encounter in their lives they could have protected themselves.

Near the end there was a segment on his defending himself against the death penalty that highlights bizarre psychopathic thinking.  He even played part of the song Alice’s Restaurant.  This is a guess, but he seems to have followed a line of reasoning like this:  “Hmmm, they’ve found me guilty of murder and killing people.  So, they think killing is a bad thing.  Yet, giving me the death penalty would make them killers.  Let me point that out to them.  Yeah, and I recall that in the song Alice’s Restaurant, there’s a part where the song’s character is pretending to be a psycho killer, acting out his thoughts.  That’ll jog the jury emotionally since it’s such a bad thing.”  (For those who don’t know the song, Alice’s Restaurant was written as an anti-Vietnam War song with the character going through ways of getting out of serving after being drafted.)

Alcala came across as a Martian trying to understand and communicate with human beings.  I’m not at all sure that I understand his motivation here, I’m just making an attempt.  This aspect of coming across as aliens trying to understand humans, is worth paying attention to.  I’ve found it often in groups of sociopaths, the group dynamic and cross-reinforcing may lead the group to express very odd thoughts and thinking patterns, betraying its sociopathy.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy in the Alcala story is that he could have been stopped after the first discovered murder.  It was very apparent that he was a psychopath.  He should have been evaluated, found to be a psychopath and institutionalized for the rest of his life.  There are quite a few cases like this,  Michael Swango and Charlie Brandt (he was covered by another 48 Hours documentary:  http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/05/25/48hours/main1655084.shtml, http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=192450), to name two obvious psychopaths.  Though my idea of obvious psychopaths and the idea of others seems to be different — but now we have brain scans.  There is no excuse for letting predatory psychopaths prey on the rest of us.  Criminal psychopaths need to be handled foremost by the mental health system, not the judicial system.  There are totally different evidentiary rules and reasoning for involuntary commitments as opposed to those used in legal proceedings that can and should be applied in cases such as this.

Michael Swango, M.D.

Michael Swango, M.D.

Charlie Brandt

Finally, I must point out that the vast majority of sociopaths/psychopaths are not criminal or even violent.  Murderers are murderously angry.  This documentary gave us no idea of anything that might have pushed Alcala in that direction.  For example, as I recall, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer were both unattached as infants, resulting in unresolved infantile rage with an adult’s capabilities and a psychopath’s skills (discussed further in https://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/open-letter-to-alice-miller/.

More photos of Rodney Alcala and his Dating Game tape are in my earlier post, https://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/psychopath-on-tape-rodney-alcala/.

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“A defendant’s fMRI brain scan has been used in court for what is believed to be the first time.

Brain scan evidence that the defense claimed shows the defendant’s brain was psychopathic was allowed into the sentencing portion of a murder trial in Chicago, Science reported Monday. Brian Dugan, who had been convicted of the rape and murder of a 10-year-old, was sentenced to death, despite the fMRI scans.”


The intent of the defense was to claim that the defendant was not fully culpable due his psychopathyDid this strategy work?  Of course not. In the real world, do individuals ever forgive or absolve of responsibility their victimizers upon realizing the victimizer is a psychopath?  No.

fMRI Evidence Used in Murder Sentencing

Dugan exhibits the antisocial behavior, inpulsivity, lack of remorse, and other characteristics of psychopathy in spades, says Kent Kiehl, a neuroscientist at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and the Mind Research Network, who served as an expert witness for the defense. Dugan scored 37 out of 40 points on the standard diagnostic checklist for psychopathy, putting him in the 99.5th percentile, Kiehl says.

Kiehl conducts research on psychopathy in New Mexico state prisons in which he and colleagues collect life histories, anatomical brain scans, and fMRI scans of brain activity as inmates perform various tasks, including tests of moral reasoning. Using scanners at Northwestern University, Kiehl ran Dugan through a similar battery of tests. Kiehl testified that Dugan exhibited abnormalities similar to those he and others have reported in other psychopaths. Kiehl says he was careful not to stretch beyond what the data show. He didn’t claim, for example, that the brain scans prove that Dugan committed his crimes as a result of a brain abnormality. “It’s just one piece of evidence that his brain is different,” he says.

. . .

[from the comments] I think it would be easier to sentence such a total psychopath to death because he is missing an essential piece of whatever it is that makes us human.


I think that comment reflects the way people really think.

These legal strategists need to get out in the real world more.  Maybe take a Greyhound bus from Harrisburg, PA to Omaha, NE or just have beers at the corner bar more often.

Basically I like the idea of brain scans being brought into court — but for the exact opposite reason.  I think the psychopathic guilty would be found guilty more often than they are now.  And that they would be put away for longer sentences.  Juries would know that they weren’t dealing with daily reality.  I believe juries try very hard to walk in the shoes, place themselves in the position of the accused to try to understand the accused’s behavior.  But this assumes that the psyche they are trying to get into is similar to theirs.  This is simply not true for psychopaths.  Thus juries would have to think differently in approaching guilt and innocence in  trials of psychopaths — which I believe they could and should do.

Now obviously there could be a danger of such a situation being too prejudicial.  So this idea would need to be fine tuned, tried out with sample juries, etc. or confined to the most serious crimes or crimes with a high potential of psychopathic actors.  Perhaps it could be restricted to such felonies as pedophilia, child murder, rape and murder.

It would also open up the possibility of involuntary commitment of psychopathic individuals of danger to society, which would have different standards of evidence from a legal trial.  For example, the prolific serial killer Dr. Swango (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Swango) should have been incarcerated in a mental hospital years earlier than when he was eventually found guilty.

Michael Swango, M.D.

For some background info and links:  Neurolaw and Psychopath (http://lawneuro.typepad.com/the-law-and-neuroscience-blog/2009/08/neurolaw-and-psychopathy.html).   The Law and Neuroscience Blog seems to think that brain/genetic research on psychopaths will “change our perception of their moral and legal culpability.”  We shall see.  I predict the exact opposite.

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