Monday, November 30, 2015

My Appearance on CNN: What it Means and What it Doesn't

My appearance on CNN's New Day on early Sunday morning, November 29, has gotten a lot of publicity, especially from those on the political right, crowing that I stuck it to CNN and their "leftist agenda." (I believe if the same thing happened on FOX - which it well could - then the political left would be cheering what happened). I even made "video of the day" on with the title, "Crime Expert Hammers CNN....on CNN." Newsbusters ran a very thorough piece titled, "Crime Expert Rips CNN on Air for Dishonering Agreement not to Discuss Colorado Shooter." Another blog' title was "Furious guest tears into CNN, scolding them on how they tricked her to get on air - before they cut her off."

While I appreciate the blog writers that have complimented me for my principled stand on no notoriety for mass murderers and my willingness to hold my ground on CNN when the interview ended up going south and I am happy that what I said about the media and mass murder has gotten a wider audience, I am saddened by the level of vitriol that has been spewed out in the wake of my interview and how few people actually understand what happened on my CNN segment and what the outcome of this debacle may well be.

First of all, I was NOT tricked, NOR was there any "bait and switch" going on. CNN did not have me come on with the intent of doing anything underhanded. I did not accuse them of lying and getting me on under false pretenses. They simply wanted me to come on and discuss the mass murderer, his motives and the ongoing investigation into his case. They thought if they didn't show a photo of the killer or mention his name during my segment, they had done their part in what I asked. They were careless, not malicious. I am not going to sue them for slander, as some have suggested, for making a mistake; we need to focus on what is really important which is improving media's methods of reporting on mass murder.

What happened on CNN is pretty much standard in the industry; we have quite a bit of hurried and shoddy reporting on air and in print media partly because of the desire to entertain rather than inform the public. I have long refused to do print interviews, even for major newspapers, because the reporters are poorly educated and trained, have a deadline to make which gives them far too little time to do any proper research, and they often misquote me and quote me out of context, again, not because they are malicious or wishing to misrepresent me, but because they are in a hurry and are careless. Likewise, the well-meaning commentary on my CNN appearance is also out-of-context, not entirely accurate, and not quite what I wish was learned from my interview.

Much of reporting these days is a game of telephone; one media outlet publishes or airs something and other media organizations then repeat what they said without regard to the truthfullness of the original claim. TV reporters run about trying to be the first to catch a good sound bite or any sound bite as time to air the story nears. Calls are put out to experts and they are rushed down to the studio or quickly put on Skype; many times, preinterviews are not done and the network simply relies on the expert to say something interesting enough on air; they are not really being concerned that the content is all that fabulous -they need to fill time in this 24/7 news world. If they can fill time with more "vibrant" commentators and guests, all the better; unfortunately, quality of material is not as important as keeping the audience entertained.

Saturday night, a CNN booker contacted me - someone I have worked with before and who is very nice; she asked me to come on the show in the morning. I told her my stance on mass murderer commentary - explained clearly that I would not go on any show that used the name of the killer during my segment or showed his photo; I also would not discuss his story. I told her I will not talk about individual mass murderers as this gives them the infamy they seek; I told her I would only talk about mass murder, in general, and the role of media in the increase of mass murder in particular. She  told be that would be fine and booked my car. I was quite surprised because when I have given that statement to the networks over the last three years, the answer has always been, "Thanks, Pat! We will call you another time!" Because I was a bit suspicious about being booked under my requirements, I sent a second email asking if she was sure that the name of the killer would not be on my segment nor any photo of him. She wrote back that this would not happen. I spent the night waiting to hear that I had been cancelled because I thought someone would finally realize that I was actually going to talk about the media's role in the increase in mass murder.

The phone never rang. The car showed up. I was driven to the studio and seated and miked. At this point I was really happy that I finally had a network that was willing to broach the subject of media responsibility; I thought that my three years of taking a stand and losing a good portion of my on air work would pay off, that some good was finally going to come of it. I wasn't the only one out in the world taking this stand but I hoped that doing so as a professional in the crime field and as a media commentator would have some impact in the fight to stop givng notoriety to mass murderers and inspiring future mass murderers.

My interview came right after a segment that showed the killer's photo, used his name, and told his story. That made me a bit uncomfortable but I figured I hadn't actually said I should be in a segment totally removed from the story; my fault. Then, when the host came to me, she did not start by asking me about media reporting of mass murder but went straight to an interview of a neighbor and then came to me to ask specifically about the killer's behaviors. True, during that taped interview and her questions to me the killer's name was not used, but that clearly skirted the entire issue of not giving the killer publicity; excluding his name but talking about someone already named is a rather childish version of na-na-na-na we didn't use his name; technically, CNN was abiding by my request, but clearly this was only in a technical sense. I pointed out to the host that I had agreed to come on only if no name, no photo, and no conversation about an individual killer transpired. I refused to engage in further discussion of the killer, and managed to make my points about the media and its handling of mass murder, that the media is unquestionably responsible for contributing to the increase in mass murder.

I was thanked for my time and I thanked the host in return for having me on. CNN followed up by trying to do damage control and claimed they had not reneged on their agreement with me and they read from my email to CNN about not using the name of the killer or showing his photo. CNN claimed they had honored our agreement. Of course, this was not true. The killer's name was on screen under my face for nearly a full minute and our agreement to not discuss the individual killer was violated.

However, I was NOT "furious" as the one blogger claimed. Frustrated and saddened, yes, but not enraged at CNN for "tricking" me. Because this is not what happened. What happened was the carelessness I have just written of, carelessness that is rampant in ALL the world of media, left-wing AND right-wing media, big and small. The booker didn't totally take in what I was saying and didn't really hear what I wasn't willing to talk about and she didn't pass on clearly what we had agreed upon because it didn't register with her WHAT we had agreed upon. The host was blindsided, by her own team, because she most likely was only told not to use the killer's name during the interview. She likely was stunned when I objected to the conversation and horrified when I started taking about media responsibility (that is a big no-no). She got flustered and didn't know how to handle it; she should have simply had a mature conversation with me on the topic and left it at that, but she likely knew it was a topic that was not supposed to be discussed and so she try to shut me down. At that point, CNN thought I made them look bad and tried to save their image. Unfortunately, in the hurry, again, they made a statment that was a falsehood, probably not even realizing that the name of the killer had been on the screen for a good portion of my interview.

CNN messed up. This is true. But, they didn't intend to abuse me or lie. They just were hurried and careless, like all the media is a good portion of the time. I think the same thing could have happened over at FOX or MSNBC; in fact, it HAS happened in one form or another. Mistakes were made; we went on. I don't know if I have burnt my bridge with CNN, but I hope not; I hope they realize that I was not at fault and take what happened in stride, as I have. While I have a lot of issues with the way media is handled these days, it doesn't mean I don't like many of the people I work with in the media. I, quite frankly, have been amazed that I have had such a long career on air considering I never held back from telling things as I have seen them.

In the wake of this CNN debacle, most of the publicity about the interview and most of the comments about it have to do with CNN as a news channel and not about the stand I have taken about not giving notariety to mass murders or about the need for media to change how it handles the reporting of mass murder. This is unfortunate. A fine opportunity for discussion about the topic was not only wasted on air but out in society.

My phone is not ringing of the hook from major media outlets scrambling for further discussion on media responsibilty. No one, from the right or left, seems to want to talk further on the matter. I hope something changes and I suddenly get a number of media requests to address the topic, but I am not holding my breath.

I believe one of the biggest problems we have in American today is the inability to have a civil and intelligent conversation without getting so easily bent of shape over differing views. We cannot solve our problems if we don't focus on the facts and instead scream and hurl insults at each other. We need to increase decorum and make it our duty to calmly seek answers. If we don't learn to do this, we are no better than a bunch of children squabbling on the playground and this is no way for grown people, American citizens to behave.

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown

November 30, 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

Davey Blackburn and the Complicated Arena of Human Behavior

This morning three men were arrested in the rape and murder of Amanda Blackburn, the wife of Pastor Davey Blackburn. Many (and this would probably be a very high portion of people who have been speculating on the Internet) are quite surprised that Amanda Blackburn's husband actually did not have a hand in her murder because they found his behavior and statements following (and prior to) her death to be extraordinarily bizarre for a normal human being and indicative of guilt, that he either personally killed his wife or he hired someone to do it. Others, especially Christians and those from the pastor's church are feeling vindicated and are saying that those who thought the pastor guilty of the horrendous crime of murdering his wife had rushed to judgment and didn't understand a man of faith's reaction to a terrible event.

I think this case is quite fascinating and I plan to use it in future teaching of law enforcement about statement analysis and how it should be used as a tool within investigation, how to understand the results within the context of the totality of evidence. Also, how to determine if what the person-of-interest does or says is truly an indicator of guilt or is out of character or is representative of other issues - like a personality disorder or culture or subculture. Human beings are complicated and analyzing what they say and do is complicated as well.

There are some rules which should be followed when approaching the matter:

Physical or extremely convincing circumstantial evidence should ALWAYS back up behavior and verbal evidence before convicting a person of a crime. Two cases come to mind in which men were convicted based on almost entirely behavioral and verbal evidence, cases in which the majority of the public are pretty sure the right person was convicted but, in reality, we could be looking at seemingly guilty behaviors but not necessarily guilty men. One case is Drew Peterson who recently lost an appeal in his conviction of the murder of his estranged wife, Kathleen Savio, who was found dead in her bathtub. There was no physical evidence connecting Peterson to her death, not even proof that he was in the vicinity of her home on the night she died. Yet, he was convicted on hearsay testimony, his very psychopathic behavior, the fact his present wife went missing and circumstantial evidence, and the fact he is the most likely person to want Savio dead. In reality, someone else could have killed Savio and Peterson been perfectly fine with that (oh, lucky me!); someone could have saved him the trouble. I personally think he is guilty of the crime as his behaviors and statements seem to support, but I am not sure if I were on the jury I would have handed down a guilty verdict just because he is a psychopath and he SHOULD be the guy who did it.

The other case is that of Michael Skakel who recently did get an appeal in his conviction of the murder of Martha Moxley. I am glad he got his appeal because this was a travesty of a case in which a man got convicted on absolutely no physical evidence and very weak circumstantial evidence. In fact, Michael Skakel got convicted solely on a couple of statements he made as a teen decades ago and because the jury didn't like him. A good analysis of the crime actually points AWAY from Michael Skakel and there were far better suspects than him (which the police were much more interested in at the time), but Skakel got convicted because the jury found him creepy.

Which brings me back to Davey Blackburn. "Creepy" was the Number One adjective given by almost all following this case. People were creeped out by his sex sermons, creeped out by his demeanor, creeped out by his seemingly upbeat acceptance of his wife's brutal demise, creeped out by his talk of "good things" coming from her murder...I could go on and on. Regardless of what some Christians and those in his church feel about Pastor Blackburn, that he somehow represents a man of strong faith, I will say as a criminal profiler who has spent many years in Christian churches and known a number of pastors, Davey Blackburn's behaviors and statements have all the hallmarks of a narcissitic personality disorder. Lay people speculating on the case were not off in left field to feel something was odd about his demeanor, that his reactions to the murder were not normal for the average person. But, his behaviors actually were not totally inconsistant with a narcissistic personality disordered individual who may have a problematic marriage who has difficultly connecting with others or feeling empathy for them, and who has chosen a vocation in which a narcissistic personality disorder can be an asset. His response to his wife's murder may well have been a mix of a crisis of faith (his version of faith in which he has set himself up to be a favored son of God), a relief as an answer to dealing with a difficult marriage, and a business opportunity which he can capitalize on.

Which brings me to this point: what you are before a crime occurs is who you are after a crime occurs. We are actually NEVER "out of character" and this is what the detectives need to determine when they analyze a crime. Is the man who kills his wife when he finds out she is having an affair committing a "crime of passion" or has he always had a borderline personality disorder and her betrayal was too much for his ego to stand? He didn't go from being an emotionally healthy indivdidual to a killer overnight; a person without a personality disorder will be upset about infidelity but not kill over it. And what happens when a psychopath's wife is murdered by someone else? Since a psychopath has no empathy, he might be mad someone took his toy away, but he might be ecstatic that he got a bunch of money from the life insurance policy he forced his wife to get and he may be out dating other women the following weekend. He might seem totally guilty of killing his wife (and he might actually have thought about it, maybe even planned it for the following month!) but have nothing to do with her death. Yet, red flags will go up for the investigators because of his behaviors and statements. This is the kind of stuff they have to deal with. Sometimes, though, a psychopath or narcissist will have odd behaviors and statements but in the interview actually so no signs of deception, so in spite of his oddness, the detectives will be following other leads.

This may well have been true in the case of Pastor Blackburn. He may have raised the detectives' hinky meter but came across truthful in his actual interviews and the evidence pointed away from him. Or they may have been keeping an eye on him while pursuing other leads.

On the other hand, I worked a case where the detectives did a great interview of a man who "found the bodies" but because they jumped to a conclusion that the crime was a gang killing, they ignored the very odd statements the man made during the interview. Now, mind you, he was a psychopath and a drug dealer and because of this, they just tossed off whatever he said as, well, you know, guys like this say weird things, but, in reality, he was confessing to the crime in his twisted statements, deception was rampant, and the physical evidence at the crime scene indicated he was lying and supported his role in the murders. Statement analysis was very useful in pointing to his guilt, but the detectives failed to do any analysis of his words and simply interviewed him as a witness and filed the report.

Good investigation keeps analysis in proper perspective and continues to view the totality of the evidence in making investigative choices.

For a last example of how one must take all the evidence into account and rule things out or in, the door to the house was unlocked. Was Pastor Blackburn responsible for leaving the door unlocked? If not, then this is not suspicious. But, if he did, the detectives have to determine if this was regular behavior (maybe both he and Amanda were not big on locking doors) or if this was a one-time behavior and if it was, why? Was he distracted and accidentally left it unlocked? Is he feeling horribly guilty over that Or, if he is a narcissist, not feeling any guilt at all? Or, did he leave it open on purpose so someone could enter and kill his wife? The police have to consider this. They have to make sure he did not know any of the men involved. He could have met them through the gym or throuugh evangelizing. Who knows? The detectives have to rule out all possibilities. And, if they have ruled out these possibilities, then we have a man whose statement analysis threw up a dozen red flags and suggested possible guilt but, in fact, what we really were dealing with was a man with a likely narcissistic personality disorder whose mission of church building and love of the spotlight made him appear guilty of a crime he did not commit.

To sum up, statement analysis and behavioral analysis is an excellent tool for investigation but it must be used in conjunction with solid crime scene analysis and physical and cicumstantial evidence. All of these tools together make for a successful investigation, a proper arrest, and a solid prosecution. True justice lies in getting all the pieces of the puzzle to fit in place without forcing them, to solve the crime accurately, not just close it for the sake of putting it to rest.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Why the McCanns Love Conspiracy Theorists

What is Even the Point of Photoshopping in Sunglasses?
Yesterday, I wrote about how unsolved cases can sometimes garner such great interest that the public may overanalyze every piece of information and come up with a more and more complicated theory about what happened and why the crime has not been solved. Someone who read the post then wrote me and said if the very in-depth theories about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann had no validity - that "The Last Photo" is photoshopped and wasn't take on the day claimed, that Maddie died way before May 3, that the entire evening of May 3 including the negligant behavior was just staged to make a kidnapping scenario possible, that Maddie never was in the creche during the week leading up until she vanished, that there is something far more sinister involved in the disappeance of Madeleine than an accidental death and panicked cover-up - then the McCanns would have offered more proof of Maddie being alive until May 3 in order to quell these damning theories.

But, in reality, these theories do nothing but benefit the McCanns' assertions that Internet crazies and trolls are making ridiculous claims; it is the far more likely scenario, the simple one of negligence and a desperate cover-up that the McCanns would like to go away. This is why they want Amaral's book off the market, why they want my book off the market - the truth is what they fear being proven, not a myriad of farout theories promoted by people with no power to influence law enforcement. The more fantastical the theories, the easier it is to discredit those who create them.

In fact, the McCanns love convoluted scenarios so much, they hired a bunch of crooked private investigators to create all kinds of bizarre kidnapping scenarios because they know the public loves to latch on to fascinating puzzles and that keeps the money coming in. Can you imagine how few donations they would have received if their PIs only looked for a local pedophile who would have killed Maddie within hours of abducting her? Not many would have supported that kind of is just sad and boring and even if it brings closure to the parents and saves other children's lives, there is just nothing very inspiring about searching for a dead child.

The McCanns also have to be happy about the complicated scenarios that Scotland Yard has managed to develop because, again, it takes the focus off of a simple crime that points to them being involved.

If only all the focus of everyone - the public, the police, and professionals - simply looked back at May 3rd, 2007 and analyzed what went wrong that evening, how the McCanns likely dealt with it, and what they  could have done to destroy the evidence of their involvement and, most importantly, focused on where her body might be  - the one piece of evidence that could lead to an actual conviction - maybe then, this case would have a chance of being solved and justice done.

I don't believe there is a snowball's chance in hell of this happening at this point, but it is a shame that  more effort isn't put into just that.

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown

November 6, 2015

Cover for 'Profile of the Disappearance of Madeleine McCann'

By Pat Brown

Rating: 1 star1 star1 star1 star1 star
Published: July 27, 2011

What really happened to Madeleine Beth McCann in Praia da Luz, Portugal in 2007? Was she abducted as the Gerry and Kate have claimed or did something happen to Madeleine on May 3 in the vacation apartment and the incident covered up? Criminal Profiler Pat Brown analyzes the evidence and takes the readers through the steps of profiling, developing a theory that is intriguing and controversial.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sandy Hook, Madeleine McCann, "Quantico" and the Difference between Fiction and Reality

Everyone is a Suspect in this Show
I have been watching "Quantico", the new series starring Indian actress Priyanka Chopra...well, up until last week when I couldn't take it any more. It is just plain dreadful in every way and the convoluted plot about a terrorist hidden within an FBI class of new agents make me want to poke my eyes out. Now, I understand, that for a fictional story to be interesting, there have to be some surprises and plot twists and turns but when it gets to the point of incredibly far-fetched, where each and every person (recruits and teachers) has a huge secret, when everything that happens is not what it seems, when the conspiracty gets so big and complicated it goes off the rails, that is when I, quite frankly, find the whole thing so silly I just have to give up paying attention.

And this happens in real life as well. Someone just emailed me and asked me to take a look at the many videos and blogs about what "really happened" at Sandy Hook, a horrible mass murder in the United States in which a young psychopath murdered his mother and then went into an elementary school and mowed down twenty little children and six teachers before taking his own life. But, there is a growing number of people who are investing a lot of time trying to prove that what happened at Sandy Hook was a government operation to influence gun control, an staged event so horrifying to the American public that it would cause the citizens to finally accept a law that will remove guns from the hands of lawabiding citizens once and for all.

If you start watching the videos on Youtube and reading all the analysis by those who think Sandy Hook was not a real mass murder, some of the stuff is pretty fascinating and convincing..if you take each  piece of "evidence" alone and don't look at the whole picture. You start to think, "Wow, maybe they are right! Maybe there is way more to this story than a disaffected youth committing a random, horrific act. Maybe there IS a big secret behind all of this, an unusual but possible scenario that could be the 'truth' behind what happened."

Defense attorneys use this exact same method of cherry-picking pieces of "evidence" and stringing them together to create a story of "what may have happened";  you start thinking, "Hmm....maybe there IS something that the prosecution is hiding from us...maybe the defendent is being railroaded....maybe this is why there are some pieces  of "evidence" which don't make sense, which the prosecution is misleading us about...maybe the defendent is innocent." This is exactly what the attorneys for Casey Anthony and O.J. Simpson did and it worked. Even though the evidence was overwhelming and painted a pretty complete picture of what actually happened and the motive was quite clear when all the evidence was pulled together, the attorneys found this piece of "evidence" and that piece of "evidence" which they concocted a story about, sowed seeds of doubt in an untrained jury's mind, and that was all that was needed to make them believe something else might have happened indeed, a shadow of doubt then clouded their judgment.

Same with Sandy Hook. With hours and hours of searching and analyzing, people have come up with "really interesting stuff" that they have compiled into a huge plot fulled of twists and turns and amazing scenarios. The narrative is that the US government actually staged a fake mass murder, that no children actually died, that those who supposedly died are actually alive and well, that every one of the parents and children and witnesses seen on television are hired actors and actresses. There are videos showing the parents smiling and laughing right after the deaths of their children, the children who died are seen again in more recent photos and videos, the crime scene does not look proper, there are many inconsistenies in police and media statements, and on and on.

It IS all quite fascinating and captivating, but there are very tell-tale signs which help us understand that the theory of a staged government op is something conjured up in overactive imaginations - much like the ones conjured up by defense attorneys to confuse the jurors - and not a proper analysis of the case. We see the same thing happening in the Madeleine McCann case ( although, in that case, I do find there is no evidence of abduction and the parents are involved in Maddie's disappearance); a group of well-meaning people have overanalyzed the case to the point of an ever more deep and wide conspiracy of actors and actions...that does not actually represent what likely happened.

In real life, crimes are rarely that clever or complicated because they a) don't have to be, and b) the criminals aren't all that smart, and c) they don't usually have that much time to waste, and d) complicated stuff actually leads more often to getting caught because there are more parts of the crime to screw up and more people involved which  means more people who have to stay quiet.

Quantico is fiction because if that many young recruits have a secret, this means the FBI has no vetting process. This means a whole bunch of people have to be incredibly clever to cover up their secrets and get into the FBI and then continue covering up their secrets and participate in some very complex crimes. The complexity of the crimes requires a major mastermind, totally competent players, all the evidence being difficult to analyze, and all the dominos to fall exactly at the right time with none going askew. That this can hold water for an entire season requires us to ignore major plot holes and suspend our disbelief week after week after week. Even fiction has a hard time making such massive conspiratorial plots work; in real life such plots are pretty much nonexistant simply because they don't work or make sense.

The theory that Sandy Hook is a government operation requires that an entire fake school be constructed, that actors and actresses of all ages be hired to play the parts of future dead people and never be seen alive again, never talk...what? The fake crime scene must be kept hidden from all local law enforcement and the press, forever. None of this is plausible and what is more telling, none of this makes sense. The US has enough real mass murders with guns to do the job of showing citizens the dangers of gun availability that such a staged government op is totally unnecessary. Furthermore, if the US government thought it was this important to make a point about gun ownership, they could simply hire people (yes, that is another theory) to go in and kill a bunch of kids and teachers for the good of the country.

Three of the biggest flags that a theory about a crime is extremely unlikely is that the theory requires a mountain of questionable evidence, too many players involved who need to keep quiet, and a motive that is a huge deep, dark secret.

In the Madeleine McCann case, the evidence points to an overdose of the young child that led to her death in the apartment on the evening of May 3, 2007, panic by the parents, and the removal and disposal of her body, likely by the father of the victim. The parents statements are conflicting, the dogs hit on cadaver and blood in the apartment and rental car, and there is zero evidence of a stranger entering the apartment. There is a possibility that one or two of the friends know what happened and have remained quiet. That's it.

But, over time, the case has theories that grow more and more convoluted. More and more people are involved in some dastardly crime, the child was dead days before it was reported requiring forged daycare documents, photos being photoshopped, a whole gaggle of people carrying around a fake Madeleine and staging a complicated crime, yet staging the crime so badly that they become suspects! I long ago stopped looking at the massive pile of "evidence" that supposedly supports such a complicated and convoluted crime theory of what happened to Madeleine McCann.

In reality, either criminals plan a crime that is as easy as possible to get away with or people become criminals because they commit a crime due to carelessness and then desperately try to cover it up. Sometimes luck, the weather, other people screw up enough of the crime scene to make "evidence" that isn't really part of the original crime or confuses the crime scene. This is the stuff that causes police detectives to follow wrong leads and ignore the right suspects, this is what allows defense attorneys to create an alternative scenario to win over the jury and free their client, and this is what inspires people to create conspiracy theories and complicated plots about crimes that then grow bigger and bigger and bigger to the point of ludicrosy.

The FBI instructor in "Quantico" stated, "Evidence can lie." No, evidence doesn't lie, but evidence and stuff that looks to some like evidence can be misunderstood and this is what turns a simple real life crime into a tale of fiction that any network executive would love to put on screen.

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown

November 5, 2016