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The Trials of Rasmea Odeh, Part Five -- Did PTSD Make Her Do It?

Defense counsel argued that PTSD caused Rasmea Odeh to provide false answers on her citizenship application, and they found a famous psychologist to back up the claim.


Thank again to Eugene Volokh for inviting me to blog this week about my book, The Trials of Rasmea Odeh. Part One is here; Part Two is here; Part Three is here; Part Four is here.

Rasmea Odeh's answers on her naturalization application were so obviously false that her first lawyer—William Swor of Detroit—proceeded straight to plea bargaining without filing pretrial motions. Swor was no pushover, having received awards from the Arab American Chamber of Commerce, the ACLU, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Defense Attorneys of Michigan.

Swor negotiated an extremely favorable deal, with no prison time, but Odeh rejected it. After consulting with Deutsch and Fennerty, she opted to raise a political defense—condemning Israel for torture and conspiring with the U.S. government—under the guidance of the leftist lawyers, who entered appearances in the case.

But even a politicized defense had to deal with the falsehoods on the naturalization form.

Fortunately for Odeh, one of the world's foremost authorities on treating torture victims lived in Chicago. Dr. Mary Fabri, had been director of Torture Treatment Services and International Training at the Kovler Center, and had consulted on torture care in Kurdistan, Rwanda, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, and Haiti. She met with Odeh for 18 hours over six sessions, confirming that she suffered from PTSD.

As a treating psychologist trained to believe victims, Fabri had unquestioningly accepted Odeh's exaggerations and fabrications, credulously repeating them in her lengthy report. Fabri wrote, for example, that Odeh's torture had continued for 45 days because "she had no information [about the bombing] to share" with her interrogators, when of course she had publicly admitted her role in the bombing before immigrating to the U.S. And in her most extensive previous account, Odeh had claimed to have been tortured for only seven days.

Worse, however, was Fabri's continuous improvement of her assessment. She initially opined only about "a strong possibility" that Odeh would have misinterpreted the naturalization form's questions, while admitting, "I don't know what went on in her mind."

As the case proceeded, however, Fabri enhanced her opinion far beyond her expertise, ultimately applying her novel PTSD filtering theory to conclude that "Ms. Odeh did not intentionally lie on the citizenship exam, but instead interpreted the questions" to apply only to her life in the U.S.

The prosecution successfully excluded Fabri's testimony from the trial, based on its own convoluted theory that expert psychological testimony was inadmissible in a "general intent" crime.

Without Fabri's opinion, Odeh was convicted by a jury in 2014, but the prosecution had unwittingly set the stage for a successful appeal.

With nothing in the trial record to rebut the filtering theory, the judges on the Sixth Circuit panel said they didn't even understand the "general intent" argument, and unanimously reversed the conviction due to the exclusion of Fabri's testimony.

The case was set for retrial before Judge Drain, with the prospect of Fabri's testimony about the extent of Odeh's torture and its alleged effect on her answers in the naturalization process.

At almost the last minute, however, Odeh decided to plead guilty, accepting virtually the same deal negotiated by Swor three years earlier—conviction of a felony, revocation of citizenship, and deportation. Her allies tried to spin the surrender, weakly claiming that they had successfully put Israel's human rights record in the official court record.

In fact, Odeh and her attorneys had seen the writing on the wall. Fabri's proposed testimony was shaky on the merits, and subject to impeachment for inconsistency. And the prosecution's superseding indictment was going to put Odeh's admitted PFLP membership at the center of the retrial. Cornered and exhausted, she had simply given up, despite her victory in the appellate court.

Odeh would continue to appear at anti-Israel rallies, claiming that she had been forced into a "racist" plea bargain, but that could not forestall her inevitable deportation in September 2017.

NEXT: Today in Supreme Court History: March 4, 1861

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  1. "As a treating psychologist trained to believe victims"

    Also, "believes in training victims"

    1. Prof. Lubet should add up all costs after the investigation found her supermarket receipt from the time of the bombing in her home. Had she been summarily executed on the spot, the costs would have happened, and terrorists would have been deterred. Part of social learning is the immediacy of the consequences. How much did Israeli and US rent seekers make off the blood of those victims?

      1. "Had she been summarily executed on the spot"

        Autistic authoritarian's advice.

        1. Hi, Queenie. What is your race? I need that for your letter. You certainly are qualified for a better job. You are being exploited, perhaps because of your race.

          1. Isn't it medication time for you Mayor McNut?

            1. There is nothing wrong with your race. You should be proud of it.

              1. I'm proud of my race of homo sapiens as much as you are ashamed of yours of homo ignoramous virginalis. Now take your nap Davie!

                1. so you're a Homo? nobody cares!

                2. Queenie, you used the word "h**o". You should be cancelled.

                  1. There is no room for gender bias and gender epithets in our schools. You need to apologize. Then you should undergo diversity training with testing. You should have a monitor to make sure you have learned the value of diversity to our nation. Diversity makes our nation strong.

                  2. Davie, it's not time to be funny. We've talked about this, focus on social contexts! It's time for your evening meds.

                    1. My letter will be much better if you tell us your race. You may get a raise.

                    2. Did you spit your meds out again Davie? You're going to lose your Rachel Ray Show time for that again!

  2. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  3. Prof. Lubet, thanks for posting these excerpts. This is a challenging subject to do justice to, and the depth of research you've gotten, with a lack of cooperation from the subject, is impressive.

  4. What's the evidence that the psychologist had been 'trained to believe victims?'

    1. He didn't laugh hysterically at her claims and tell her to take the plea agreement?

      1. I'm pretty sure Mary Fabri was a woman, for starters.

        1. You don't know what her pronouns are, do you?

        2. Queenie psychologists caused the ritual sex abuse hysteria of the 1990's. Innocent pre-school teachers received long prison sentences due to the testimony of these stinking feminists, passing themselves off as experts in collusion with the stinking, toxic, scumbag lawyer profession. It was a conclave of stench, psychologists and lawyers.

          1. Davie, we've talked about this, the bad lawyers can't hurt you right now. It's going to be ok.

    2. Good question. Aren't psychologists the ones who demonstrated the utter unreliability of memory, the ease of implantation of memory, and the disruption of memory formation from the adrenalin during a trauma?

  5. I am curious when Mr. Lubet will do an even-handed inquiry into other such stellar human beings, such as Mao, Che, Stalin, Pol Pot, The Kim Family, etc.?

  6. Professor Lubet...This Jew thanks you for shining a spotlight on Odeh. What a vile human being she is. The fact that she is 'celebrated and venerated' by Jordanians (and palestinians) tells me everything I need to know about their fitness as a peace partner to Israel.

    1. I support C_XY's comment and note that Fabri's conduct was questionable at best and complicit in fraud at worst. and her therapist's license should be re-examined.

      1. No, the very idea of the government licensing therapists and other occupations should be examined.

        The idea that political undesirables should have their licenses examined is atrocious.

        1. I agree, but psychologists also shouldn't be treated as experts in court. Psychology is mostly nonsense. (The reproducibility problem in psychology is so acute that there's a good chance every article published in a month is simply wrong).

          1. I thought that psychology was so bad that it wasn't a matter of not being right, but that it wasn't even wrong.

            1. That depends on the psychology. There's some actual experimental psychology. It's just mostly wrong.

              The stuff you can't test is not even wrong. Heck, it can't even have a reproducibility crisis - there's no results to reproduce.

        2. Too bad, but licensing is not going away and Fabri is a charlatan

    2. What do you think of the people who (and agencies that) tortured prisoners for Israel?

      Israel's conduct -- torture, occupation, superstition-laced authoritarianism -- seems destined to cost Israel the support of the American mainstream. How would Israel operate without America's military, political, and economic skirts to hide behind? Why should Americans provide such benefits, at severe and varied cost, to any nation that engages in immoral right-wing belligerence and chooses to cuddle with the wrong side of our culture war?

      1. Anti Semite Much?

        1. You haven't just climbed Mt. Pathetic in this thread, you've built a three bedroom house at the top and have been living there for a while.

        2. I have equal disdain for those who torture for the United States, for Saudi Arabia, for Russia, and for others. Unlike many clingers, I don't issue passes -- for torturers, for bigots, and for other substandard people -- based on preferred flavors of childish superstition.

  7. Its good she's not polluting the US anymore but she should be in a grave somewhere.

    1. The longer she lives, the more time she has to repent, and maybe she eventually will. Her attempting to retain the fraudulently obtained citizenship through further fraud doesn't really suggest that she has changed her character, though.

      1. Anyone who thinks killing shoppers will be persuasive has a thinking problem. Her thinking is clouded by hatred. If any persuasion results from killing shoppers it is to want to destroy the enemy even more.

  8. Dr. Mary Fabri, had been director of Torture Treatment Services and International Training at the Kovler Center

    Delightful 🙂

    The capitalists sell us the rope to hang them....but the Jews will give us the rope for free !

  9. One obvious theme of the Trials is that in these politically charged cases, the defendant often wants to try his/her case in the court of political opinion with what are essentially justification and persecution arguments. "I was totally justified!" and "the government went after me because they want to suppress our just cause!".

    But the legal and factual arguments that work better in cases where the defendant is clearly guilty are mens rea and excuse arguments. "I didn't understand the form", "I had a mental condition", "I was insane". And those arguments are not ones that defendants would like to politically highlight- they are the ones, however, that defense lawyers, trying to do their job, are supposed to advance.

    Odeh obviously played both sides of the fence.

  10. I'm shocked that someone who planted a bomb in a supermarket would lie on a government form.

    1. I am not shocked that The Volokh Conspiracy's audience of authoritarian, right-wing misfits seems largely unfazed by torture.

      1. Arthur, I have the same opinion of torture that you do, but it doesn't justify lying on her citizenship application.

        1. I disagree. If you have a genuine, reasonable and substantial fear of something horrible happening to you or those dear to you, unless you manage to squirrel yourself away in the US, then lying to get in might well be morally justifiable.

          Of course, the US chucking you out if and when it discovers you've been lying may also be morally justifiable.

          Of course lying is a bad thing, but some other bad things are more bad.

          1. Was there any claim by her that she or her loved ones were in danger of further torture? I don't recall seeing one. And I'm sure she would have argued that if the facts had been there to support it.

            1. I don't know, and I care less. I am not arguing the particular case, just the matter(s) of principle.

          2. Depends; Is the something horrible happening to you a consequence of your own horribleness? In that case, you can't leverage being horrible into being entitled to lie to escape your fate.

            And, really, was the US the only country she could have moved to to escape her situation in Jordan? I rather doubt it.

            1. Is the something horrible happening to you a consequence of your own horribleness?

              That's why I said "might well be morally justifiable."

              In that case, you can't leverage being horrible into being entitled to lie to escape your fate.

              And that's why I said that the US might be entitled to chuck her out. Entitlement implies a right - moral or legal - that the other guy (the US) must acquiesce to your wish to stay in the US. I merely assert that an asylum seeker might, depending on the circumstances, be morally justified in trying to hoodwink the immigration authorities, not that the authorities should be bound to accept being hoodwinked.

          3. I don't believe she was in any danger in Jordan. Her family simply wanted her to go help her brother take care of their father.

      2. I support the torture of the lawyer hierarchy of the US. There is no information they have that anyone could use, since they are delusional criminals. It would be to deter.

        1. Davie, settle down, you're in a safe space, the bad lawyers can't touch you now. Take your nap or you'll be all tuckered out and grumpy when evening medication time starts!

          1. Hi, Queenie. What race are you? I need it for your letter, as you will help your employer fulfil many diversity goals.

            1. Davie, come out of the corner, dry your eyes. The bad lawyers can't get you now. So come on, let's go get those yummy meds you love!

      3. The torture was improper and wrong, but I'm not sure how that excuses any of Ms. Odeh's wrongdoing.

        -They had enough physical evidence to convict her for her role in the bombing without the torture. The torture was to get the names of accomplices. So she was clearly guilty of the bombing.
        -She lied on the naturalization form. She wasn't tortured into lying, and torture doesn't make later lying about her criminal past okay.

        We can equally fault Israel's use of torture as wrong. Everybody was in the wrong here, excepting only the US court that convicted her of fraud and deported her.

      4. Torture? like your unending inane posts?

  11. Wow, this chick is really "Blowing Up" AlGore's Internets.

  12. The reason for the lies on the application does not matter.

    Her departure would be the same had she used the truth.

  13. This chick reminds me of an old Johnny Carson "Carnac the Magnificent" bit, circa 1979...

    answer "Burn Arabls"

    Question "What will we use for fuel once the Oil is gone?"

    Sigh, and now we these Eunuchs like Colbert, Jimmy whats his name, don't even know if Conan's still on, only one who has any Cojones is John Stewart, and he's not on anymore.

    Frank "Hey-Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh"

    1. "and now we these Eunuchs like Colbert"

      He's so worked up!

    2. How is John Stewart relevant to this discussion, you bigoted, illiterate wingnut?

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