Female killers Jodi Arias and Susan Smith: The "Scale of Evil"

A Photo: Susan Smith mug shot

WASHINGTON-March, 25, 2013-“Callous, deceitful, reckless, guiltless-the psychopath understands the wishes and concerns of others; he simply does not care. The psychopath believes that rules and morals are for other, weaker people who obey because they fear punishment. No matter how bright and a psychopath is often very bright, he rarely maintains a regular job, he may have an ingratiating manner and superficial charm. He can be persuasive, poised, lying, evasive, feigns forgetfulness- vague and inconsistent with answers of his past.”-Dr. David B. Adams- Clinical psychologist

Dr. Adams is absolutely correct in his assessment of psychopaths, but is slanted in his use of “he.” Dr. Adams is missing a female reference in his statements, largely reflecting the view of society that psychopaths are male. In fact, the Psychopathy Checklists Revised (PCL-R) suggests 7.7 percent of males and 1.9 percent of females have tested as meeting the criteria of psychopathic.

The Census Bureau reports as of 2009, there are 155.6 million females and 151.4 million males in the United States of America. This means there are about 2, 945,000 female and 11, 567,000 male psychopaths walking among us. These estimates are greater than the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Personality Disorders fourth edition (DSM IV) of five percent of the total population.

With 2.3 million males in prison and an estimated 25 percent meeting the criteria for socio/psychopathy, there are roughly 575, 000 male psychopaths accounted for. The figures for females are far lower.

So, where are the rest? They may be next door, at the checkout counter, selling cars, working as doctors, lawyers, and waitresses or not working at all.

The good news is not all psychopaths are murderers.

In 2001, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Stone introduced to a New Orleans American Psychiatry Association session -packed with forensic psychiatrists- and the media a “Scale of Evil” created by Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist.

Dr. Welner was/is the director of a national consulting firm called the Forensic Panel comprised of 20 people that determined words used at trials such as “atrocious”, “outrageous”, “vile” and the worst-“evil” etc; have different meanings to different folks.

In short, a group from the mental health and legal fraternity were consulted to provide information that eventually led to a scale for determining levels of ‘evil” that does not take into consideration socio-economic, race, religion, sex or any factor other than specific ‘evil’ of the crime itself.

Dr. Stone’s “Scale of Evil” listed acts of depravity and the psychology associated with such acts with 22 separate categories ranging from No. 1 as “Those who kill in self-defense and do not show psychopathic tendencies-also known as justifiable homicide” to No. 2-“Psychopathic torture murders with torture as their primary motive-sexual homicide.”

Category No. 11 as stated; “Psychopathic killers of people ‘in the way’- Psychopaths that display chronic immoral and anti-social behavior”. Interestingly, Susan Smith was used as an example.

Where the hammer will fall on Jodi Arias awaits history, but some colleagues can and will provide an educated guess within this series of articles.

For those of you who recall, Susan Smith let her mini-van roll into a South Carolina lake with her 3 and 14 month old boys asleep in the back seat. She then claimed she was car jacked by black men.

For a long period of time she stood by this story and garnered substantial sympathy from authorities and the public–at-large. Eventually, her story revealed inconsistencies after a detective gained her trust and got her to confess to one of the most heinous crimes in American history: The deliberate drowning of her children for personal gain.

What psychopath Smith did that made her a category ‘11’on the “Scale of Evil” and how her mind compares with Jodi Arias, coming next.


Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association of Psychological Science.



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