Drew Peterson and Empathy

Dr. Keith Ablow, psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author.

Dr. Keith Ablow, psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author.

by Dr. Keith Ablow

When Drew Peterson was brought into court on charges that he murdered his third wife Kathleen Savio, he was in a good mood. He yelled jokes to reporters about how “spiffy” his red prison jumpsuit was and called his shackles “bling.”

Peterson is, of course, also a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of Stacy Peterson, his fourth wife. He insists he is an innocent man.

Think of how you’d respond to being dragged into court on murder charges, especially if you were wrongly accused. You might be terrified or confused or enraged at the injustice of your plight, but you wouldn’t be all smiles, spewing one-liners.

So how can Drew Peterson do it?

To have any hope of understanding Drew Peterson, one first has to understand human empathy. Empathy is the ability to resonate with the feelings of others to such an extent that one actually experiences some of their joy or grief or anxiety. It is a remarkable and inexplicable quality that we too often take for granted. The fact that a friend can be brought to tears by a loss of yours, that you can intuit and share the worries or hopes or pride of your partner in life, or that the hunger of children thousands of miles away could spur you to action on their behalf is a tribute to this miraculous force.

Empathy does even more, though. It helps us contain our anger and our destructive impulses, because we can imagine how it might feel to be the object of that rage. It also helps us gauge what is appropriate language and behavior in various situations, again because we can imagine how others are likely to respond to us. We can put ourselves in the shoes of our friends or neighbors or loved ones.

I believe empathy is an essential ingredient in experiencing guilt, as well. If you can’t imagine the injuries you may have done another person—can’t feel their pain in any measure—then you aren’t likely to worry over any harm you’ve done them. The absence of empathy is the growing place for antisocial and narcissistic traits that set a person adrift from the interpersonal ties and sense of personal responsibility that bind the rest of us.

Drew Peterson may be largely devoid of empathy. That’s why he just doesn’t get the fact that lobbing jokes to reporters while being dragged into court on charges he murdered a young woman is bizarre and macabre. It’s why he believed he’d come across as credible on television during the media tour he orchestrated after the disappearance of Stacy Peterson. It’s why he probably is confident a jury will acquit him (which, of course, it could). Peterson may not be able to put himself in the place of others—at all.

One of the most toxic manifestations of having no empathy, of course, is that it leaves those without it free to inflict suffering on others. There’s no wincing at causing them pain, even death. In the forest of pure narcissistic and antisocial traits that grow in soil without roots of empathy, only self-preservation and one’s own needs matter. No one and nothing else really does.

If Drew Peterson killed Kathleen Savio or is responsible for the disappearance of Stacy Peterson or both, he isn’t worried about any of that. He’s busy with the opportunity to showcase what he believes is his extraordinary charm and intelligence and wit. And he thinks you and I and every reporter and every judge and every juror will be mesmerized.

Source: Fox News Health Blog

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31 thoughts on “Drew Peterson and Empathy

  1. I think Dr Ablow has Drewpy figured correctly. There’s only one word missing…sociopath.
    Isn’t a lack of empathy what makes one a sociopath?
    From Britannica Online:
    Sociopaths generally accept their behaviour as natural, feel no guilt when they hurt others, see little reason for or possibility of change, and resist therapy…

  2. Hi Bucket, Cheryljones.

    Yes, Bucket, there is life. Tomorrow will be a court day, so I assume there will be noise coming from Will County. I would be so curious to get a look at ol’ Drewpy and see what living with his bad self has done for him!

    Facs has had a personal issue keeping her busy, but, she’s a great multi-tasker!

    (((Facs)))

  3. Dr Ablow has very concisely explained why drew has been behaving the way he has. I often shake my head and wonder how people like Scott Peterson, drewpy, and others who, in the face of a tragedy like what happened to their wives, simply do not behave like innocent men. Their actions are what cause people to look at them and say ‘something is not right here’.

    I used to shake my head and think ‘what an idiot – at least put on the appearance of being the grieving husband’ and wonder why they didn’t.

    Now I realise it’s because they simply don’t see anything wrong with their actions. The only doubt they have is why other people find them so offensive.

    I think that is why drewpy doesn’t see what the rest of the world sees – that Joel Boobsky is one of the most incompetent, ignorant and reckless attorneys to grace the courthouses of Illinois. To him it’s all good and all normal.

    I wonder if Glasgow’s office will order a psych evaluation…or maybe I just watch too much Law and Order.

  4. He’s so sort of textbook that I don’t think the profilers have found him particularly interesting. Too bad, not special :-(.

    (((facs))) 😉

  5. Facs, hope it’s all okay soon. Prayers and healing thoughts to you and yours.
    Hi, Rescue. And may I say that if I had not already signed in w/my name, I would be using doggiesallover.
    Your name is #1 on my all-time favorite blogger name list! All of mine are rescues, and there are 11 of them.

  6. Thanks for the kind words. It’s going to be a long haul and this is just the beginning. 🙂

    Meanwhile, Derek Armstrong is back to touting tidbits of irrelevant gossip in order to boost flagging sales of his crappy book:

    (PRNewsChannel) / Chicago, Ill. /
    Derek Armstrong, author of ‘Drew Peterson Exposed,’ reports that a detective working on the homicide investigation allegedly asked Peterson’s fiancé out on a date.

    “This would be improper in most jurisdictions,” a high-ranking police commander in a different state told Armstrong. “This goes beyond over-zealous.”

    According to Armstrong, Raines also said that Illinois State Police investigators allowed her to read emails and instant messages from Drew Peterson during a time they were authorized to conduct electronic surveillance, in violation of Illinois law prohibiting disclosure of information gathered from such surveillance. A source indicated Raines believed the disclosure was designed to alienate her from Peterson. Raines continues to visit Peterson in jail.

    Armstrong’s sources indicated that the criminal probe into Drew Peterson may be ongoing, despite his arrest, and the recent waiving of a “speedy trial” agreed by both prosecution and defense, may indicate both sides are still investigating.

    http://www.prnewschannel.com/absolutenm/templates/?a=1492&z=4

  7. Armstrong is really scraping the bottom of the barrel. He doesn’t name names! It’s just like all those gossip magazines that quote “a pal” or “a good friend” as their source. I think it’s just all made up.

  8. Do you think the defense has told him this? Is the out-of-state lawyer in Florida (or Kentucky?)
    Ever suspicious!
    LOL, really, about the invitation to take Chrissy out. I imagine it went:

    PO: Look at this, Chrissy. He’s lying to you and chasing other women. You don’t deserve that! He doesn’t deserve your loyalty! You’ve got your whole life in front of you. He’s not your only option. Lots of decent men would like to take you out, heck, I would….

  9. Facsmiley says:
    Meanwhile, Derek Armstrong is back to touting tidbits of irrelevant gossip in order to boost flagging sales of his crappy book.
    **********

    The only thing Armie has “exposed” is how delusional he is.

    On the other hand, it looks like it’s the defense’s attempt to channel their usual slime tactics through this guy, as pathetic as it all seems. Especially wierd, though, is how DA uses the opportunity to self-promote his vast breaking stories and predictions, as he likes to call them.

    It’s funny, really. Peterson is fighting for his future, with what appears to be mounds and mounds of gathered evidence against him, and the best a washed-up author can report from his “sources” is an alleged request for a date from a detective involved in the case, calling it improper conduct. Was his “source” the same nitwit that said she would do Mancow, by any chance?

  10. According to Armstrong, Raines also said that Illinois State Police investigators allowed her to read emails and instant messages from Drew Peterson during a time they were authorized to conduct electronic surveillance, in violation of Illinois law prohibiting disclosure of information gathered from such surveillance. A source indicated Raines believed the disclosure was designed to alienate her from Peterson.

    *******

    Enough with the bullcrap the defense is trying to get the Forest Gumps to fall for, via Derek Armstrong.

    AFAIK, the surveillance of Peterson ended last summer, when it was reported in July that Lenny and Paula were wearing wires, beginning in Nov, 2007. In fact, last summer, we were all, including Joel Brodsky and Derek Armstrong, reading the emails and instant messages online, when the psuedo Ashley was posting them. How is it now illegal for ISP to have “allowed” her read these emails and chats that any of us could have provided to her just by printing them off of “Ashey’s” blog? Is Brodsky’s defense of the wiretap evidence going to be that LE illegally showed Raines the emails and chats taken from a time when there was authorized surveillance going on? I notice there’s no implication that LE “allowed” her to read written transcripts of any of the wiretap conversations that were taken during the authorized surveillance. Only the already public emails and chats.

    Bah! This crap is not for anyone with the ability to use their brains.

  11. LOL maybe what happened is that the detective gave her his phone number. They always do that in case you want to talk. LOL

  12. I just caught the tail end of a Peterson report on Fox News Chicago. It was with Attorney Karen Conti, I believe. All I heard her say was that she thinks the trial is at least a year away, and Peterson will remain locked up, “putting a strain on him and his attorneys.”

    I’ll check the site for updates.

    I think it was common sense to conclude that there was no way the defense would be able to proceed to a trial as early as August. Not once the State turned over its mounds of gathered evidence. At least, not proceed so soon and be completely prepared. Another time Peterson’s lawyer opened up his pie hole and nothing but misinformation came out. Oh, well.

  13. The Fox News reporter said that Peterson and his attorneys will be back in court today to find out who the narrowed down list of 50 witnesses against Peterson will be, although they will be able to call additional witnesses. Still reporting that the trial is scheduled to begin on August 24th, although as I heard earlier, Attorney Conti says she expects it’ll be a year before it goes to trial.

  14. Looks like we’ll get a report form Hosey later:

    Joseph Hosey is at the Will County courthouse, covering the latest Drew Peterson story.
    4 minutes ago

  15. Facs says – “Fiancé” should read “gal pal”.

    Or maybe “live-in girlfriend.” But that would be messy w. Drepie & Ms. Raines… it would have to become “live-in/live-out/live-back-in-until-he-got-arrested girlfirend.”

  16. Chicago Breaking News (Chicago Tribune/WGN)

    Drew Peterson murder trial delayed
    July 14, 2009 1:32 PM

    Drew Peterson’s murder trial won’t be going ahead next month as planned, after he waived his right to a speedy trial today.

    During a hearing at the Joliet courthouse, Peterson attorney Joel Brodsky told Judge Stephen White that the defense team needs more time to review some 40,000 pages of evidence.

    Peterson was scheduled to stand trial Aug. 24 on charges that he murdered his ex-wife Kathleen Savio in 2004. But White canceled that trial date today, after asking Peterson whether he understood that he was giving up his right to a speedy trial.

    Peterson, wearing blue jail scrubs, stared down at his lap and replied “Yes, your honor.”

    He did not speak again during the hearing.

    Prosecutor John Connor, head of the major crimes unit of the Will County state’s attorney’s office, did not object to the trial delay.

    Peterson is next due to appear in court Aug. 14, when his attorneys will try to have the case moved outside of Will County and to challenge the constitutionality of a hearsay law passed last year that allows Savio to testify “from beyond the grave.”

    No new trial date has been set.

    Speaking outside court after today’s hearing, Brodsky said the defense team “can’t digest all the information” prosecutors have given them without more time.

    He said prosecutors have agreed to hand back to Peterson ownership documents for his two vehicles, a motorcyle and a lightweight aircraft.

    Peterson intends to “dispose of” the vehicles to fund his defense, Brodsky said.

    Peterson has been in custody since his arrest on May 7 and has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge.

    — Kim Janssen

  17. So are we, since Armstrong is nothing but Peterson’s lawyer’s way of dribbling out information that he wants to, probably, without violating the judge’s orders. That crap, through the PR no-news agency, is nothing but gobbledygook and sensationalism. No thanks!

  18. Why can’t Brodsky, through Armie, leak out some substantive information about Drew’s possible non-guilt, you know, like he couldn’t have been the murderer and wasn’t around Kathleen’s house at the time she died? Why, again, is it slime the victims/family/friends/witnesses/investigators?

    Boring, old, sensationalism from the defense, once again. Bah.

    **********************************

    Date with Drew’s fiancee?

    July 14, 2009
    By JOE HOSEY jhosey@scn1.com

    JOLIET — Drew Peterson’s lawyer followed up a routine court appearance Tuesday by claiming that a state police detective had asked the accused killer’s on-again, off-again fiancee on a date during the investigation.

    Defense attorney Joel Brodsky told reporters that a detective had asked Christina Raines to a “dinner and a movie.”

    Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police sergeant, is accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004.

    His fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared in 2007. He faces no charges in her disappearance.

    Peterson, who remains in custody at the Will County Jail on a $20 million bond, is scheduled for an Aug. 24 trial.

  19. Can’t help but chuckle that DP will be “disposing of” two vehicles, a motorcycle and a lightweight aircraft.

    I do feel sad for his son Tom if dad feels he must sell the vehicle he is driving to fund his defense.

    Honestly these items will only provide so much money that will be used up rather quickly…..then what will he dispose of? My understanding is he cannot use any monies related to the house?

    Hummm, dinner and a movie with Chrissy Raines? Does she need a passport for such an outing?

  20. LOL @ Jeepers. Yes, she needs a passport. But, then again, I guess she only dates people who spend the better part of their time in jail cells, on the inside, not the outside.

    It’ll probably be this time next year when Peterson and his defense will be ready for trial.

    Oh, and BTW, hopefully, word will get back to the judge how Brodsky has found a way to get out information to the public, via Armstrong. Naughty, naughty.

  21. A new trial date has not been set, but lead Peterson attorney Joel Brodsky warned the hearsay law challenge is so crucial, both sides may appeal up to the United States Supreme Court.

    “The state would have to stop the prosecution in its tracks and seek an appeal,” Brodsky said if Will County Circuit Judge Stephen White agrees with him. “It would require, I believe, Drew’s release.”

    Brodsky also said he will file a change-of-venue request to move the trial out of Will County due to the intense publicity – much of which Peterson fueled himself through national media appearances and other antics.

    The so-called Drew Peterson “beyond the grave” law allows a judge at a pretrial hearing in a murder case to determine whether hearsay evidence – testimony or documents that quote someone second hand who is not available in court – may be admitted at trial.

    Prosecutors must prove in the pretrial hearing those statements are reliable and that the defendant’s wrongdoing made the witness unavailable to testify.
    http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=306924&src=2

    Drew Peterson lawyers to challenge hearsay law

    .”..Brodsky argues it runs contrary to the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees a criminal defendant the right to confront his accuser in court for cross examination.

    In DuPage County, prosecutors successfully invoked the hearsay law in the Oct. 9, 2004, fatal shooting of a 17-year-old Warrenville girl who was killed shortly after accusing an acquaintance of battery. The man, Joshua Matthews, 24, if facing first-degree murder charges. “….

  22. I saw Brodsky giving an after-court interview today, which is perfectly stated in this article:

    Daily Herald

    Drew Peterson lawyers to challenge hearsay law named for him

    By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff
    Published: 7/14/2009 3:44 PM

    Hoping to thwart prosecutors, Drew Peterson’s lawyers said Tuesday they will challenge a new “beyond the grave” hearsay law nicknamed after the former Bolingbrook police officer.

    The move is expected to delay the start of Peterson’s trial on charges he murdered his third wife, Kathleen Savio, 40, who mysteriously drowned in her bathtub in March 2004.

    Initially slated to begin Aug. 24, lawyers agreed to push trial back as the defense studies more than 40,000 pages of documents and other evidence it recently received from prosecutors.

    A new trial date has not been set, but lead Peterson attorney Joel Brodsky warned the hearsay law challenge is so crucial, both sides may appeal up to the United States Supreme Court.

    “The state would have to stop the prosecution in its tracks and seek an appeal,” Brodsky said if Will County Circuit Judge Stephen White agrees with him. “It would require, I believe, Drew’s release.”

    Brodsky also said he will file a change-of-venue request to move the trial out of Will County due to the intense publicity – much of which Peterson fueled himself through national media appearances and other antics.

    The so-called Drew Peterson “beyond the grave” law allows a judge at a pretrial hearing in a murder case to determine whether hearsay evidence – testimony or documents that quote someone second hand who is not available in court – may be admitted at trial.

    Prosecutors must prove in the pretrial hearing those statements are reliable and that the defendant’s wrongdoing made the witness unavailable to testify. Brodsky argues it runs contrary to the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees a criminal defendant the right to confront his accuser in court for cross examination.

    In DuPage County, prosecutors successfully invoked the hearsay law in the Oct. 9, 2004, fatal shooting of a 17-year-old Warrenville girl who was killed shortly after accusing an acquaintance of battery. The man, Joshua Matthews, 24, if facing first-degree murder charges.

    Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow pushed for the hearsay law as Peterson was under investigation in Savio’s death and the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy, who hasn’t been seen since Oct. 28, 2007.

    Peterson, 55, has not been charged in Stacy’s disappearance.

    Prosecutors have said Savio told relatives of repeated murderous threats from Peterson. They allege Peterson killed Savio because he faced “financial devastation” from the couple’s ongoing contentious divorce as he tried to begin a new life with Stacy – with whom he had an extramarital affair – and their baby. Glasgow said Peterson even offered someone $25,000 to kill Savio months before her death.

    Peterson has remained in the Will County jail since his May 7 arrest on a $20 million bond. In court Tuesday, Peterson appeared subdued; his trademark grin gone. He did not speak other than answering two perfunctory questions from the judge with a polite “yes, sir.”

    Peterson is due back in court Aug. 14. He also sought Tuesday the return of several seized titles to his vehicles, a trailer and a lightweight airplane with the hope of selling the property to help pay for his defense.

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