For the past three months, I’ve been covering a Manhattan murder trial that might finally solve the mystery of what happened to Etan Patz, the 6-year-old boy who vanished on his way to the school bus in 1979. In my time in the courtroom, several questions I’ve heard have stuck out. Like, “Do you have any major problem communicating with other planets?” And, “Do you sometimes have strange feelings in your body? Do these feeling only occur on Tuesdays?” And how about, “Have you ever felt that people were following you? Did you experience an increase in appetite during those times?”
These aren’t the type of questions that often come up during witness examination. You normally hear the where-were-you-on-the-night-of inquiries that establish means, motive, and opportunity. But this is a trial involving an allegedly mentally ill defendant, and these are questions that forensic psychologists testified they asked him to determine if he has a legitimate mental disorder — or if he’s just faking it.