Casey Anthony: Summarizing the Psychologists

When you turn on Nancy Grace (or any show on HLN), you hear from mental health “experts” who proceed to tell you that Casey Anthony is a psychopath or sociopath. They say she has a narcissistic personality disorder. They say she’s a pathological liar. The problem is that none of these “experts” have ever met Casey Anthony or studied her past. They sell you their “expert opinion” with superficial analysis.

Meanwhile, the reports from psychologists who actually examined Casey Anthony in jail tell a very different story than comments from their TV counterparts; and their opinions are substantiated by hours of research and hard data.

What did they say?

Judge Perry unsealed the depositions of two psychologists who examined Casey Anthony in jail: Dr. Jeffery Danziger and Dr. William Weitz.

First, it was a colossal mistake by Casey’s defense team to allow the psychologists to be deposed by the State. In essence, they allowed the prosecutors to legally invade the doctor-patient confidentiality without recourse; and the prosecutors definitely wanted to know what she said:

Linda Drane Burdick: “This series of questions will only be soliciting what she told you or didn’t tell you, not your opinions of why. Okay?”

The mistake was compounded by the fact that they never used the psychologists at trial. It was an extremely poor move on their part.

Second, all of the psychologists who examined Casey Anthony were (eventually) paid by the State of Florida. Since all of their analyses match, it’s unlikely that all of them were paid by the defense to skew their story. Dr. Danziger (and Dr. Berns) was a court appointed psychologist who evolved into a defense consultant. Dr. Weitz, Dr. Krop, and Dr. Day were contacted by the defense and paid by the State due to Casey’s indigency.

Nevertheless, the depositions have been released for the public’s reading pleasure. There is quite a bit of information so I will split up the details into two posts: what Casey said and what the psychologists said about her.

This post breaks down the psychologists take on Casey Anthony.

Background Data

Unlike the TV psychologists, Dr. Danziger and Dr. Weitz were privy to an extensive collection of documents detailing Casey’s history. These included her academic and social history as well as interactions with her daughter.

Dr. Danziger:

I have file called “CMA.” What I have in CMA is about a thousand odd pages of data. It is school records… Her baby book from when she, herself, the defendant, was a baby. Awards from school, Good Citizenship awards, photos of her on the track team, grades, achievement test scores. School transcripts… Everything people wrote in her high school yearbook, picture of her holding a baton in a track uniform.

Also, in CMA… there is something called “Photos.” And it’s roughly 40 pages of photographs. Most of these photos are of Casey and Caylee… The best way to categorize these these is that they are photos of a happy mother and at home and in different outings and settings.

Dr. Weitz:

I received… the main police reports from the State of Florida with respect to this case as of 11/5/2008. They included from pages 2271 to 2502. [Also] two preliminary psychiatric evaluations of Miss Anthony… done by Dr. Berns and Dr. Danziger.

A lot of the police reports not only define the facts set around the case, but there were lots of statements being made by lots of people in Miss Anthony’s life, from boyfriends to family members to relatives… So I was getting a significant feel of what others were saying about not only the issues the disappearance and then eventual death of the daughter, but also about the relationship that Casey Anthony had with each of them, her behavior with them, her personality, her way of interacting.

[Also] School and educational history. There are pages and pages and pages of school academic records… [It was important] in terms of where she stood intellectually, her intellectual capacity, how she performed generally in school. Also, information about behavioral responses, you know, her behavior within the school setting… the importance of education and wanting to do well, in terms of people in her life.

I’ve had information representing the mother and daughter interacting, photographs… and a video. So I’ve had an opportunity to check out some of their interaction patterns.

Tests

Dr. Danziger administered the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2) test:

[There were two] reasons I did the MMPI. First, it’s a high profile case and I thought it’s worth taking an extra hour and a half to have her do it. Second, I wondered about a defensive profile… I wondered could she be deliberately minimizing, consciously saying I’m fine, nothing’s wrong with me, when that was not so.

Dr. Weitz administered the Trauma Symptom Inventory (TSI) test:

I try to utilize a variety of sources to accumulate information to be able to understand the individual… This would be helpful to me in providing some additional information beyond the interview and reports, etc. [It has] built-in validity scales. And they have to do with patterns or behaviors that would indicating invalidating or attempts by individuals to somehow not respond appropriately. Whether it’s responding all zeroes or responding randomly or responding all false or all negative…

Other psychologists, such as Dr. Krop, administered additional tests but they were not discussed in the depositions.

Interpretation of Test Results

Dr. Danziger stated the results of the MMPI:

[The test was] entirely normal. Certainly no signs of exaggeration of amplification… it was not a defensive profile.

The only one that was elevated was the MF for Male/Female scale, which would suggest she’s a bit of a tomboy… She might be — for example, she might be interested more in cars than fabrics. But other than that, nothing was elevated. It was an entirely normal profile.

Dr. Weitz discussed the results of the TSI:

Each of these different scales that are marked in the bold letters represent different emotional reactions or psychological reactions or ways of responding to trauma or sexual issues or defensive avoidance or [intrusions], etc., these are all significant events having to do with trauma. And even normal people experience some variation and some diversity of the way they respond.

He started with the validity and pattern scales:

All the scores are depressed. They’re underreported. They show almost a complete separation of emotion and affect from the various questions that she asked to respond to. Many of the items she responded to with zero, meaning that she’s underreporting in the sense that many people, even normal people, have these experiences.

So I indicated that in denying many of the items and denying concerns about highly traumatizing events – even non-traumatized individuals tend to score higher – that [says] to me in a very short way [that] denial and suppression defenses exist.

He then moved to the summary scales:

TR represents trauma, SLF represents self, and DYS represents dysphoria. They are a summary of certain composites of some other items…Again, any of the clinical data that would have reflected either individual scales or groupings involving the area of trauma, self, or dysphoria are underreported… Denial of items on the traumatic stress items on the scale indicates that she’s not reporting significant concerns… Individuals that are even non-affected by show greater height than she’s reporting.

Intrusions [and] trigger mechanisms… [are] two highest. One is IE, intrusive kinds of behaviors that would trigger reactions. Those are areas that would indicate that the individual’s experiencing intrusive thoughts or memories into their conscious, things like flashbacks, nightmares, things of that nature…

And the second one is DA, defensive avoidance, which just has to do with the defensive mechanism of trying to avoid overwhelming, threatening, highly volatile material…

The IE and DA, if you look at the manuals, often are paired very highly with individuals who are experiencing PTSD.

Analysis

When asked if Casey Anthony suffered from any disorder, Dr. Danziger replied:

I… don’t see anything that meets the criteria for mood disorder, anxiety disorder, an eating disorder or substance abuse disorder.

Dr. Weitz rendered his opinion about Casey Anthony in his report:

“It was apparent that the defendant had a defense structure that allowed her to handle disturbing and high-stress expressions without her becoming depressed, hostile, or overly emotional”

He elaborated in the deposition how he came to this conclusion:

From the psychometric testing, from my clinical interview, from the way she presented clinically in terms of her calm demeanor, her almost unemotional response style even when talking about potentially significant highly traumatic or threatening situations… I believe this is due to her both process of suppression and denial, her defense mechanism.

He expressed his conclusion that Casey did not suffer from a personality disorder:

I looked at every single diagnostic personality disorder to see whether or not some of her behavior might fit. [She] doesn’t meet the criteria for any of the existing categories.

He explained why he ruled out an antisocial personality disorder (aka being a psychopath):

There are lots of behaviors that are required in an antisocial personality and there has to be a number of them to in order to even meet the first criteria… In order to diagnose antisocial personality, there must be a history of evidence and diagnosis of a conduct of disorder before the age of 16.

Not only does it not exist, [but] Miss Anthony’s behavior is completely opposite to that.

Miss Anthony shows no history of any juvenile problems. There is no indication of problems with peers or teachers or authority figures in school. There is no evidence of any acting out, misbehaving, disturbance, whatsoever. In fact, she wins awards for… helpfulness. She’s liked by her school teacher, principals, and peers. She wins the Citizenship award. She wins the Junior Achievement award. She’s on the sports teams in soccer, volleyball, and in track and gets accolades, and I’ve read them. Basically, there is no history of violence, aggression, any commitment of any behavior that would be antithetical to rules and regulations of schools, of churches, of the legal system. Her behavior is conformity…

I acknowledge that she has told lies. She has told distortions. She has misrepresented things. And, unfortunately, that’s not the [only] criteria for antisocial personality.

There is nothing… in any of the psychometric subscales that I looked at, that indicates any evidence of psychopathy.

When probed as to whether Casey Anthony had a narcissistic personality disorder, he responded:

She likes to be liked. She wants approval. She really likes to focus certain things on herself. I have no problem… Having narcissistic qualities is not the same as having a narcissistic personality disorder.

Did she kill her child?

Dr. Danziger researched maternal filicide:

If you look at the literature on maternal filicide, one of the categories is unwanted child… To the converse… [Casey] was a devoted and good mother to the child [according to Cindy Anthony].

The prosecution asked Dr. Weitz if repression and denial would still exist if Casey Anthony killed her child. He replied:

If Miss Anthony killed her child, the operating defenses of denial and suppression might exist. Certainly it’s possible because it’s an overwhelming experience and threat.

I would be more bothered by someone who has shown absolutely no motivation to want to do that in any personalty, behavioral, or emotive capacity… If she did kill her child and there was nothing more than what currently is on the plate, then I would almost be tempted to think of some psychotic reaction, because I can find and see no motive, no baseline for why, given the nature of the relationship, the responses of people about her being a mother and how she interacted with her child, no underlying motive for doing so…

…For her to kill her child, she would almost have to go through a psychotic episode.

I’m very concerned when I link behaviors to motive… there is nothing I could see in this case that would suggest your hypothesis about her acting in that way comes to merit.

Conclusion

Aside from Casey’s story, there was nothing new regarding the psychological aspects of this case. Dr. Weitz had already came forward with this information on Nancy Grace (source), and another of Casey’s psychiatrists went on Dr. Drew (source).

As both psychologists suggested, barring a sudden change in character, there is no behavioral evidence saying that Casey Anthony is a psychopath or that she is capable of murdering her child.

The next post will be about how Casey’s story, as told through the psychologists, stacks up against the evidence.

Sources:

Central Florida News 13 Articles: 1 | 2

Dr. Danziger Deposition

Dr. Weitz Deposition

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