Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Measuring evil: Noted psychiatrist seeks tool to quantify wickedness

Must read

Belle Gunness, queen of black widows, murdered dozens and planted victims around farm

After the corpses of three children and a headless woman were found burned in a 1908 fire at Gunness' farmhouse near La Porte, Indiana,...

Investigator Claims To Have Solved The Ripper Mystery Using DNA

An amateur investigator has claimed to have identified Jack the Ripper, the archetypal serial killer. The claims are still far from verified, but that...

CSI Oxford: behind the scenes at Britain’s top forensic lab

They are responsible for the conviction of the killers in some of Britain's highest-profile murders, including those of Stephen Lawrence, Damilola Taylor and Rachel...

Underwater Forensics

Hidden in Water On Christmas Eve 2002, Laci Peterson, eight months pregnant, disappeared from her home in Modesto, Calif. Her purse, keys, and phone were...
Michael Whyte
Crime Scene Officer and Fingerprint Expert with over 7 years experience in Crime Scene Investigation and Latent Print Analysis. The opinions or assertions contained on this site are the private views of the author and are not to be construed as those of any professional organisation or policing body.
- Forensic Podcast -

Is a “perp” who attempts to permanently scar a victim with a knife more or less depraved than one who forces a child to witness a murder? How evil would you rate a terrorist who targets civilians in comparison to a serial killer who picks victims according to their race or ethnicity?

A leading forensic psychiatrist who has testified in some of America’s most infamous violent crime cases seeks the nation’s collective opinion on these and other imponderables to complete more than 13 years of pioneering research aimed at codifying the concept of evil for the justice system.

Dr. Michael Welner and his team at the Forensic Panel in New York have issued a survey that asks participants to rate 25 violent crime elements for input into the group’s so-called Depravity Standard. Behind the scenes, talks are already under way with state officials around the country to introduce them to the standard, which Welner says would provide evidence-based guidelines aimed at helping reduce the degree of subjectivity that occurs throughout the judicial process, not least at the prosecutorial stage.

“In criminal courts today, the decision to charge a case as heinous, atrocious, cruel, depraved or vile rests with the prosecuting authority,” Welner – who’s given expert testimony in such cases as Andrea Yates’ drowning of her five children in their bathtub, and the prosecution of Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell – said in an interview with “But because the law does not include a standard to what constitutes an evil crime, that decision is either visceral, or one that may be driven by political considerations, bias, or sensationalism.”

“A Depravity Standard that is rooted in specific hallmarks of intent, actions, attitude and victimology keeps prosecutors accountable to fully investigate a crime for these unique qualities so that evidence informs decision making.”

According to Welner, the Depravity Standard would complement the principle of legal precedent, which exists in varying capacities throughout the United States to standardize the application of justice.

Together with Forensic Panel Research Director Kate O’Malley, Welner is calling on all adults to participate in the survey, which would crown two earlier public surveys involving 30,000 participants.

“At the conclusion of this phase, we will be able to assign weights to homicides, sex crimes, assaults, and non-violent crimes to enable all crimes to be compared against one another – and to actually determine the level of evil in a crime,” Welner said.

Welner is a noted criminal psychiatrist who has worked on several high-profile cases.

Welner is founder and chair of the Forensic Panel, a peer-review forensic consultancy whose advisory board for the Depravity Standard includes a wide spectrum of experts from the judicial, law enforcement, medical and academic fields.

Beyond informing prosecutors, the completed Depravity Standard will be made available to detectives to more fully draw out evidence illustrating intent; judges and juries in sentencing and other decision making; corrections officials in making early release recommendations amid prison overcrowding; prison review officials and governors regarding pardon requests; war crimes tribunals in order to transcend the political controversies that sometimes plague such institutions; and academics in order to more carefully study severity within classes of crime, such as hate crimes, domestic violence, drug-related crimes, and other distinct areas of interest.

“We have received requests to use the Depravity Standard in actual cases by criminal defense attorneys and by prosecutors,” Welner said.

“Each of these requests was motivated by, respectively, a defense attorney who recognized that his crime was being overcharged and wanted to demonstrate the unfairness for a court; or a prosecutor who believed his case reflected an exceptional crime and wanted to educate a jury as to why.”

The survey is believed to be the first criminal justice project to reflect the influence of one person, one vote, in a manner that enables future jurors, future families of victims and even perpetrators – because they’re invited to participate as well – to directly fashion an aspect of criminal sentencing that may one day affect any person’s life.

“We have more confidence in the laws we directly have a hand in making,” Welner argued. “Standards that reflect the will of many are the essence of E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one.”

Additional examples of the 25 elements include targeting victims who are not merely vulnerable, but helpless; disregarding the known consequences to a victim; and showing intent to carry out a crime for excitement of the criminal act.

You can participate in the survey at

Source: Fox News

- Advertisement -

More articles

- Advertisement -

Latest article

Trees and shrubs might reveal the location of decomposing bodies

Plants could help investigators find dead bodies. Botanists believe the sudden flush of nutrients into the soil from decomposition may affect nearby foliage. If...

Are Detectives discounting the associative value of fingerprints that fall short of an identification in their investigations?

Every day, Fingerprint Experts in every latent office across the globe examine fingermarks that they determine to fall short of an identification....

Using the NCIC Bayesian Network to improve your AFIS searches

This National Crime Information Centre (NCIC) Bayesian network is based on the statistical data of general patterns of fingerprints on the hands...

DNA decontamination of fingerprint brushes

Using fingerprint brushes across multiple crime scenes yields a high risk of DNA cross-contamination. Thankfully an Australian study has discovered a quick and easy way to safely decontaminate fingerprint brushes to prevent this contamination risk and allows the brushes to be safely reused even after multiple cleaning cycles.

Detection of latent fingerprint hidden beneath adhesive tape by optical coherence tomography

Adhesive tape is a common item which can be encountered in criminal cases involving rape, murder, kidnapping and explosives. It is often the case...