Convicting Drew – Part 1

After the trial the judge took a ten-minute recess to return with his verdict. In a future post I’ll provide that in its entirety. For now I will break his decision into key points.

Judge: “Mr. Harrison’s appearance on the stand led me to these observations. First, I think the gentleman is very intelligent and his credibility on the stand in terms of his manner and appearance is the appearance of a credible witness. But we have to take into account some of the things Mr. Harrison’s own therapist, (doctors name), said. That given, Mr. Harrison’s condition, he described as some degree of Asperger’s, he has a strong desire to please. He seeks approval. Indeed the doctor’s own words was he fakes well. That’s something I have to take into account.”

When the judge used the therapist’s words as a part of convicting my son I cringed; knowing that the therapist was not describing deceit, but rather a learned ability to blend in when you don’t know what to do in a social situation.

From the trial transcript this is the context in which Drew’s therapist used the term “fakes well”:

Doctor: “He fakes well. He can present himself like a chameleon to fit in, but if you press him and ask him what’s really going on here, he can’t tell you.”

Did the judge catch the last part of that sentence? HE CAN PRESENT HIMSELF LIKE A CHAMELEON TO FIT IN. BUT IF YOU PRESS HIM AND ASK HIM WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON HERE, HE CAN’T TELL YOU.  This is common with autism spectrum disorder. Blending in is a learned behavior to survive.

So you might be thinking, maybe the judge didn’t understand. Below the judge is questioning Drew’s therapist.

The judge is asking questions. Drew’s therapist is answering:

Q: Doctor, what’s your background in a nutshell?

A: I’m a clinical psychologist.

Q: PhD?

A: PhD, yes. I practice here in Chesterfield. I see about 200 patients a week. I own a practice in Hawaii.

Q: I take it from one of your answers that you reviewed some prior medical records.

A: Yes.

Q: Pertinent to Mr. Harrison. I also understood you to say Mr. Harrison had been in therapy or counseling or some medical relationship with several different therapists before he got to you.

A: Correct.

Q: Does that mean five or ten? Do you have any order of magnitude?

A: It was during elementary school and maybe early high school. It was maybe one visit, two visits, and he wouldn’t go back or did not go back.

Q: And there was that pattern with multiple therapists before he got to you.

A: That’s correct.

Q: You’re aware or believe that there was never before Mr. Harrison got to you any diagnosis of Aspergers Spectrum Disorder?

A: Right. There was no diagnosis of any type, other than depression or anxiety and problems in social situations.

Q: Making a medical diagnosis, and I don’t really know much about it, but they just revised the DSM, Diagnostic Statistic Manual.

A: Yes.

Q: Have you made a formal diagnosis that Mr. Harrison has Asperger’s?

A: Yes, I have.

Q: By reference to some materials that I have, Mr. Harrison was, I think, 25 years old at the time of this offense. I think he’s 26 years old today.

A: Correct.

Q: That’s the predicate for this question. Is it typical to have a first diagnosis of Asperger’s when a gentleman has been seen by some several prior therapists at age 25 or 6? Is that typical or atypical?

A: It’s unfortunately typical.

Q: Is there a reason why?

A: It presents itself with such a broad spectrum and everyone is so different. Some are very high functioning. Others are much lower functioning. I have patients who are physicians, but they have Asperger’s, but their social skills are very, very poor. It causes problems between themselves and hospital administrators and their other personal relationships.

Q: I don’t have any further questions of the doctor. Anybody else?

Drew’s mom here! I wasn’t allowed to speak then. But yes, I have a question. Would this have been a good time to ask the doctor what he meant by Drew’s strong desire to please, seeking approval, and apparently most concerning to you, him faking well?

Drew’s mom needs a short recess. We will reconvene tomorrow with more of the judge’s reasoning.

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