In Michigan, the number of CSC (Rape) allegations has been on the rise. While a CSC is deemed one of the most severe crimes in the criminal justice system, it is also a crime where there is rarely physical evidence. There is a theory that many complaining witnesses make up false allegations and believe those allegations to be true. This is what we call a “Fixed False Belief,” which has become a critical component of CSC cases.
When we look at the concept of “Fixed False Beliefs,” we look to the theory of delusions. According to the Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Guide, we define a delusion as a fixed belief that is not amenable to change in conflicting evidence. As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, confabulation, dogma, illusion, or some other misleading effects of perception. Individuals with these beliefs can change or readjust their beliefs upon viewing the evidence for these beliefs.
Delusions have been found to occur in the context of many pathological states (both general physical and mental). They are of particular diagnostic importance in psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, paraphrenia, manic episodes of bipolar disorder, and psychotic depression. To discuss how fixed false beliefs play a role in the criminal justice system, we spoke to several of the top attorneys in our state to gain their insight.
Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of McManus and Amadeo Ann Arbor, Michigan. (https://www.mcmanusamadeo.com/matthew-c-mcmanus.html). McManus spoke of the first fixed false belief, the bizarre delusion. McManus said, “Delusions are deemed bizarre if they are implausible and not understandable to same-culture peers and do not derive from ordinary life experiences. This means that the common person may not believe the delusion, but this will not stop all prosecutors from bringing a charge. This becomes dangerous for the criminal defendant.”
Jennifer Kelley is a Senior Associate for McManus and Amadeo and is known as one of the top divorce lawyers in Michigan. (https://www.mcmanusamadeo.com/jennifer-kelley.html). Kelley spoke of the non-bizarre delusion. Kelley stated, “This is a delusion that, though false, is at least technically possible, e.g., the affected person mistakenly believes that they are under constant police surveillance. We see this a lot when people have to file a competency, and sadly, the competency report will not pick up on this issue. With alleged CSC victims, the danger here is that they become believable without physical evidence.”
Ashlee Duplessis is the founder of Duplessis Law in Royal Oak, Michigan, and has quickly become a top criminal defense lawyer in Michigan who spoke of the third type of delusion, the mood-congruent illusion. (https://detroitlegaldefense.com/attorney-profile/). Duplessis stated, “The mood-congruent delusion is any delusion with content consistent with either a depressive or manic state. A depressed person believes that news anchors on television highly disapprove of them, or a person in a manic state might believe they are a powerful deity. We often see this as the delusion of the complaining witness is a CSC case when a relationship does not go the way they had hoped. It is an easy transition to say their ex raped them as opposed to coping with the ending of a relationship.”
Megan A. Mast of the Grand Rapids, Michigan firm Tanis Schultz is one of the top criminal attorneys in Western Michigan. (https://www.tanisschultz.com/about-us/megan-a-mast/). Mast provided insight on the fourth type of delusion, the mood-neutral deception. Mast said, “This is a delusion that does not relate to the sufferer’s emotional state; for example, a belief that an extra limb is growing out of the back of one’s head is neutral to either depression or mania. The issue with the mood-neutral delusion is that the individual suffering from the delusion appears normal most of the time. This can lead to an array of false prosecutions.”
William Amadeo of McManus and Amadeo is known as one of the top criminal defense lawyers across Michigan with cases in 14 counties. (https://www.mcmanusamadeo.com/william-amadeo.html). Amadeo added insight on these issues when he stated, “A major theme that comes into play with the fixed false belief is the concept of “Delusion of Control.” This is where a false belief that another person, group of people or external force controls one’s general thoughts, feelings, impulses, or behaviors. Our firm is currently working on a case where a young woman became part of a cult on the web, and she believes that she was raped, but the claim is false. This is when the concept of the fixed false belief and a “Stanaway” motion need to collide.
The scary part about a fixed false belief is that individuals believe their lies and can convince someone else to follow their belief system. When that somebody else is a prosecutor or a victim advocate, a CSC charge is pressed. At the same time, there are many actual victims of rape, the concept of fixed false beliefs becoming a significant reason for a tremendous number of false allegations to come forward.