Many of you have been following the penalty phase of the trial of convicted California serial killer Rodney Alcala. This week the Associated Press reported that a psychiatrist testifying in the case, Dr. Richard Rappaport, told jurors that he believes Alcala has borderline personality disorder (BPD).
While I don't know enough about Alcala to comment on his case, I can say that it is quite rare for individuals with BPD to engage in the kinds of premeditated acts that Alcala has been accused of. In fact, this kind of violence is more often associated with two of the other Cluster B personality disorders: narcissistic and antisocial personality disorder. BPD does increase risk of violent behavior, but violent acts in people with BPD tend to be impulsive, not planned.
Why is a potential diagnosis of BPD being brought up at this phase of the trial? Currently, jurors are considering whether Rodney Alcala should get the death penalty for his crimes. If the defense (led by Alcala himself) can show that there were mitigating factors in the crimes, he may instead be sentenced to life in prison.