Janice was found guilty of premediated and deliberate murder of her nine-month-old boy. Is she mentally ill or evil? What are the five reasons why mothers kill their babies?  Or consider Simon, a devoted husband of forty years with no history of violence who, one night, proceeded to strangle his wife to death. And then there was Michael, always close to his mother, who stabbed her in the back for no apparent reason.  What are the psychological dynamics behind such human tragedies?

Decoding Madness takes a behind-the-scenes look at criminal psychology through case studies from Dr. Lettieri’s over 30 years of experience as a court-appointed and privately retained forensic neuropsychologist.


A Forensic Psychologist Explores the Criminal Mind


Richard Lettieri, Ph.D.

The criminal justice system serves as a petri dish to investigate the full spectrum of our basic makeup. Decoding Madness offers an in-depth psychological understating of defendants and their personal complexities, beyond the usual clinical accounts offered by forensic psychologists. The book introduces the novel idea of the daimonic as a basic force of human nature that is the source of our constructive and destructive capacities.

Dr. Lettieri brings these points home by presenting a nuts-and-bolts look into what it takes to complete psychological examinations of defendants accused of committing heinous crimes, and the insight that it provides into human nature.

See what it’s like to conduct an interview with someone who had committed a heinous crime, like killing a parent or child.

Michael sat in the living room with a knife hidden beneath his shirt, ruminating. As his mother headed toward the kitchen, he caught up with her and plunged the knife into her back. She turned, and spoke her final utterance, “Michael…”
From The Author

My book is filled with gripping stories like that of Michael, told from my perspective as a forensic neuropsychologist and psychoanalyst with over 30 years experience. But it’s not solely about the criminal mind. I describe how the jarring experience of conducting criminal forensic examinations revealed not only how mental disturbances drive crime, but served to expose deep psychological truths about us all.

I introduce the idea of the daimonic as a basic force of human nature that is the source of our constructive and destructive capacities.

I contrast the stories of my criminal evaluations with those of my private psychoanalytic patients. This juxtaposition helps to drive home the point that emotional conflicts and raw emotions are inevitable but, when criminal proceedings are required, a heartbreaking tragedy has occurred.

Gain an understanding of how forensic psychologists tease out criminals who are faking mental illness to avoid blame.

What You Will Learn
  • What motivates violent behavior in “normal” people?
  • Does poor judgment and social misunderstanding has its roots in early family interactions?
  • Why some who kill face life in prison, while others go free within a few years.
  • Develop a clear grasp of how severe mental illness is managed by the court system.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of human nature, and how even good people are capable of committing unspeakable misconduct.
  • Develop a better understanding of the insanity defense including why it exists, its frequency of use and its consequences.
  • What is the difference between most criminals and dangerous psychopaths?
  • Should violent teenagers be tried in adult courts instead of juvenile courts? And why should they be given rehabilitation and comparatively short sentences?