In The Politics of Autism, I write:
There is no evidence linking autism to planned violence, but in recent years, mass shootings by young men have led commentators in the mainstream media and on the Internet to suggest such a connection. After the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, for instance, news reports said that the shooter was on the spectrum. The speculation made little sense to anyone who understood autism. Whereas autistic people have language delays and deficits, the killer had learned English as a second language — and learned it well enough to major in the subject in college. Later on, it turned out that he had an entirely different problem, a social anxiety disorder. Adam Lanza, who committed the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, may have had an Asperger’s diagnosis, but his father emphasized that his behavior stemmed from the psychiatric illnesses that he also had. Nevertheless, the media speculated about Lanza’s place on the spectrum, which worried autism parents. One mother of an autistic child wrote: “This is the first time I'm truly afraid for him. Afraid of what may happen to my son with autism at the hands of a stranger; a stranger who has chosen to buy into the media-fueled misinformation that individuals diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder are dangerous and capable of horrendous acts of terror and violence.”
Jurors in the recently concluded trial of six Oath Keeper affiliates were “horrified” by a defense attorney’s effort to provoke his autistic client into a “breakdown” on the witness stand, one of those jurors said Tuesday in a newly released interview.
A woman who helped decide the fate of the six defendants sat last week for a 90-minute interview with C-SPAN — her employer of 32 years — just two days after the jury completed its work. She provided extraordinary details about the tense closed-door deliberations that resulted in four defendants being convicted of obstructing Congress for their role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Identified only as Ellen, the juror told C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb that several members of the jury cried in the courtroom while they watched one of those defendants, William Isaacs, take the stand under grilling from his own attorney. The jury interpreted the strategy as a “stunt” designed to accentuate Isaacs’ struggle with autism, she said.
“His defense attorney tried to get him to fall apart by yelling at him and not letting him wear his headset,” Ellen recalled. “He was torturing his client to get us to feel sympathy.”
What was worse, the juror recalled, was that the judge ultimately instructed the jury not to consider Isaacs’ autism as a defense against his potential crimes, which meant the entire spectacle had been “a waste of time.
Isaacs’ attorney, Charles Greene, acknowledged that most of the jury recoiled at his posture toward his autistic client. It was all by design, he said, because he viewed acquittal as possible only if the jury could see Isaacs’ profound struggle.
“The strategy was: The jury’s going to hate me, but usually when you kick a puppy, the jury hates the person who kicks the puppy but they have sympathy for the puppy,” Greene told POLITICO.