Lunch with Strauss-Kahn

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June 27 2011 5:31 PM

Lunch with Strauss-Kahn

There’s a strange story in the New York Times today about the lunch Dominique Strauss-Kahn had with his daughter following the attack he allegedly committed on the maid in his hotel suite.  Both side are looking for witnesses and security tapes to show Strauss-Kahn’s demeanor in the hours following the encounter with the maid for clues as to whether he engaged in a violent rape (the assertion by the prosecutors) or a brief, consensual rendezvous (the version apparently the defense is going to use). But all this studying of Strauss-Kahn’s behavior for clues to his guilt or innocence is bizarre. The Times writes of the lunch between Strauss-Kahn and his daughter: "It could bolster the defense case if they laugh or appear to share a leisurely meal; it could support the prosecution if it shows the 62-year-old white-haired Frenchman looking distracted or upset."

This tells me law school students should be required to take a class in abnormal psychology. Looking to see whether he’s happy or upset for clues as to whether he just attempted rape is posited on the notion that Strauss-Kahn is a normal person. But as Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom writes in an essay on two new books on psychopaths, the hallmark of this disorder is the absence of empathy.  Psychopaths and sociopaths can persistently commit terrible acts because they don’t care how other people feel. Actually, humiliating other people, causing them physical or psychological pain can be pleasurable for those who don’t have a conscience.  It could be that a laughing, relaxed Strauss-Kahn makes a better case for the prosecution – this man is so callous he has no remorse for what he just did.

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 

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