Multiple Personality Excluded in “Twilight Rapist” Insanity Case

“Because something is in the DSM doesn’t mean it’s reliable.”
Published on October 14, 2011 by Karen Franklin, Ph.D. in Witness

A serial rapist’s attempt to claim insanity based on multiple personality disorder fell flat in Texas, as a judge ordered the expert’s trial testimony stricken from the record as junk science.

Psychiatrist Colin Ross had testified that Billy Joe Harris, the so-called “Twilight Rapist” who targeted elderly women, suffered from multiple personality disorder — now known as dissociative identity disorder (DID) — brought on by childhood abuse.

Credit: Victoria Advocate, Todd Krainin / AP

Ross testified that he gave the defendant three tests for DID. However, in a most unusual procedure, rather than personally administering the tests, he gave them to the defense attorney to administer. Thus, he has no way of knowing for sure who filled in the tests, or under what circumstances.

Ross conceded that the defendant’s scores on a screening test, the Dissociative Experiences Scale, were so high that he questioned the test’s validity.

Mere presence in DSM doesn’t establish validity

After the defense rested, the prosecution called as a rebuttal witness a Minnesota psychologist and attorney who has made a crusade out of pushing so-called “junk science” out of the courts.

Robert Christopher Barden testified that dissociative identity disorder (aka multiple personality disorder) is a controversial condition looked upon with skepticism by the scientific mainstream. He cited several articles rejecting the condition as a viable diagnosis, despite its presence in the DSM.

“Because something is in the DSM doesn’t mean it’s reliable or should be allowed in a court of law,” he testified, according to an article in the Victoria Advocate. “One of the ways to get junk science out of the legal system is you rely on the relevant scientific community. If something is controversial it means it’s not generally acceptable.”

Justice, Texas-style

In the end, the defendant’s overdramatization and courtroom theatrics likely did him in. The jury took only 10 minutes to convict Harris, and another 10 minutes later in the month to sentence him to life in prison.

Retrieved 10/16/11. Full Story: Psychology Today

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