06/22/2012 02:54 pm ET Updated Jun 27, 2012

Expert: Jerry Sandusky's Personality Disorder Defense Won't Work

The jury in the child molestation trial of former assistant Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky has days of testimony to consider, but one thing members likely won't spend much time deliberating is the defense's contention that he suffers from a personality disorder, according a nationally known expert.

"These kinds of [alleged] acts cannot be written off or defended by a mere personality disorder," Tara Fields, Ph.D., M.F.T., told The Huffington Post. Fields, a licensed marriage and family therapist who has appeared as an expert on "Good Morning America," "Dr. Phil," and A&E's "Hoarders," has not treated Sandusky, but is familiar with the allegations against him.


Sandusky, 68, faces 48 criminal counts related to the alleged sexual assaults of 10 boys over a 15-year period. The prosecution has referred to Sandusky as a "serial predator," but he maintains his innocence and his attorney has suggested his accusers are financially motivated.

Earlier this week, psychologist Elliott Atkins testified for the defense that he diagnosed the former coach with histrionic personality disorder after interviewing Sandusky and reviewing evidence in the case.

According to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, histrionic personality disorder is a "condition in which people act in a very emotional and dramatic way that draws attention to themselves." Symptoms include acting or looking overly seductive, being easily influenced by others, being overly dramatic and needing to be the center of attention.

The defense's purpose in presenting the diagnosis was not to provide an excuse for Sandusky's alleged actions, but to show that certain actions by Sandusky -- letters to accusers, gifts, etc. -- were not intended to "groom" victims, but to satisfy the needs of his psyche.

"If, in fact, the things that he is accused of are true, he would have a psycho sexual disorder, but I found nothing to indicate that that was true," Atkins testified.

Fields said she does not buy the diagnosis and does not expect the jury to either.

"What is so interesting is narcissism and histrionic personality disorder are very, very similar, and if someone could use histrionic personality disorder or narcissist personality disorder as a defense, it would shut down all reality shows as we know it," Fields said. "Because if they put out a casting call they're basically going to list all the qualities of someone who is histrionic, dramatic, needs to be the center of attention [and] acts out sexually. This rings true with so many people that are in the entertainment industry and doctors and lawyers."

According to Fields, the disorder cannot explain away Sandusky's alleged actions and should not be considered an excuse in regards to child molestation.

"It's absurd to use that as a justification for someone allegedly raping and destroying a child's life and all those that are connected to them -- to have raped them physically, psychologically and to create a life path where the consequences of having been a victim of sexual abuse can go on a lifetime," Fields said.

What do you think -- should the jury consider the defense expert's opinion that Jerry Sandusky suffers from histrionic personality disorder? Sound off. You can Tweet us: @HuffPostCrime; Facebook us:; or leave a comment below.

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Jerry Sandusky Trial