It's quite a picture. The angelic face singing "O Holy Night" in her black and white striped prison uniform. The A capella rendition won the institution's talent competition. Jody Arias, sociopath, singing about the night "when Christ was born." Yes, it's quite a picture.
But so is the way the Jody Arias murder trial has captured media attention. Something about this particular case has the media and those with way too much time on their hands hot, bothered, and blathering for hours, days, weeks, and I'm afraid, months. That one cable channel can devote it's entire programming to one trial is in itself a wonder. I guess the ratings are there, and then some.
The public fascination with this woman probably has a lot to do with the fact that she is a pathological liar. Coupled with her blind arrogance and lack of a conscience, she's money in the bank.
Even though the Prosecution did an adequate job of presenting evidence that the correct diagnosis of this mentally ill woman is Borderline Personality Disorder, the public will have none of that. They want blood. They want to be right. They want vindication, and they want it now. That's why the scene at the courthouse was all too reminiscent of a lynching, with cheers, smiles, and the look of a picnic. I know, it was Arizona; it's warm there, people are casual. Still...
Coincidentally, the day the verdict came down I was just finishing a book called The Sociopath Next Door, an excellent, if not clinical at times, guide to everything you would ever want to know about Anti-Social Personality Disorder. It would have made a handy scorecard for the Arias trial now that I think of it. This very readable book by Martha Stout (ph.d.) repeatedly reminds the reader that about 1 in every 100 of the population in this country is a sociopath. That means 1 in 25. She has chapters dealing with social and cultural as well as biological factors that influence this condition, and even notes that geographically, Asian countries have fewer sociopaths, probably do to the fact that religious traditions like Buddhism and Shintoism lead to a very different cognitive structure of the brain.
Stout's figures got me wondering about sociopathic personalities I may have come in contact with during my lifetime. I can definitely think of a few folks who found it easier to lie than tell the truth. But what about most people? That got me thinking about a couple of other stories in the top of the news this week. How about the Cleveland man who abducted three young women and held them captive while continuing to abuse them for 10 years. Not even his brothers were aware of his behavior. A former school bus driver, his neighbors only knew him as a "nice guy" who liked to barbecue with them now and then. There are others. If the definition of this disorder involves characteristics like no remorse, no conscience, lack of moral emotions, where might some of the others that comprise this demographic be?
They are certainly not all murderers. Sometimes they take the form of authority figures. Just because somebody has a degree, title, uniform on or has risen to a position of tremendous responsibility doesn't mean they should be excluded. In many ways, they fit the profile perfectly. If anything comes from all the tabloid frenzy and media regurgitation of the Arias trial, maybe some knowledge and recognition of the Sociopath in the neighborhood will result.