Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Searching for the Truth

I have always tried to find some kind of truth in my life, though, like most people I have had moments, episodes, and periods of denial. Being true to oneself is really difficult. We spend a lifetime, it seems, trying to figure out exactly who we are and how we relate to the rest of the world, and some of that can involve a certain degree of fiction. Some of those lapses on truth can involve repressing painful moments, bad choices, and painful relationships. In my case there is a great deal of "forgive and forget" (and I'm particularly good at the forgetting part, which some people might call "denial").

When we try to tie our various episodes together and try to make sense of things that have happened to us, we tend to pad the forgotten transitions with elements that might not be exactly and totally true. We also might leave out details that might reveal something we would rather not reveal--either about ourselves or about other people. Most of our adventures involving something short of "the truth" are harmless, and many of us can take our secrets (if we even remember them) to our graves. People say that hindsight is 20-20, but I believe that people with a normal sense of recall tend to color events to fit into a plausible narrative. We like to believe that our lives make some kind of sense.

I have spent far too much time this Fourth of July weekend watching and thinking about the Casey Anthony trial. I see it as a phenomenon that questions the whole process of finding truth by asking reasonable people to "testify." The idea of a pathological liar taking an oath is kind of silly. If your life is constructed out of lies, what good is an oath?

It is clear that Casey Anthony comes from a family where the lie is the norm, and when it comes to testifying in court, denial is as much of a lie as a conscious lie. How interesting it is to have a case looking for truth when everybody, even under oath, is telling an alternate version of the truth. The people watching and the people on the jury probably believe that somebody must "know" what happened, but the sequence of events is so deeply buried under everybody's lies that even the people directly involved can't seem to even find the truth in the quagmire. There's also the possibility of people (Casey and her father) possibly being under the influence of some kind of substance (drugs or alcohol) to the extent that they might not have even been totally "present" at the time.

The lawyers on both sides are really brilliant, but each side of the case has to contend with the impossibility of squeezing "truth" out of a family of pathological liars, and presenting it as evidence on a witness stand. The defense did not pressure Casey Anthony to get on the witness stand because she cannot be trusted. The jury already knows that she is a pathological liar, and anything she would have said under oath would be suspect.

I did notice that the only time Casey cried real tears--streaming tears-- during the closing arguments was when her "network" of imaginary friends was revealed to the jury and to the millions of people watching on television. That led directly to her extremely public and highly-documented exposure as a pathological liar. And it was documented by using pictures without faces on a white board by the attorney who was defending her. I believe that the pressure to keep up a series of lies is the main preoccupation of a pathological liar (at least it seems to be for the ones I have known), and having that framework of lies exposed could be the deepest emotional pain that a pathological liar could know. Even greater, perhaps, than the loss of a child--by whatever means.

I don't believe that Casey is guilty of murder, as described by the prosecution, but I do believe she is guilty of neglect, and is therefore responsible for her child's death. She should have been watching her child, or she should have made sure that someone was watching her child. If there had been a drowning accident (which is certainly likely), Casey could have covered it up--even to herself--with a series of lies. That's the way she is.

The issue of "beyond a reasonable doubt" may eventually lead to a not guilty verdict for murder, because there is no actual motive for a murder. I don't buy the "party girl" hypothesis, because it isn't a plausible reason. Had Casey Anthony wanted some freedom from the burdens of having a child, she would have certainly expressed it during a time when her child was unable to walk and talk and play on her own. Nobody seemed to mention anything about Casey being anything but a devoted mother.

The prosecution is asking the jury to use "common sense," and the findings of a trial needs to be based on evidence and on testimony, and all the evidence and all the testimony is suspect.

UPDATE: I guess I was right about the verdict. Now for your moment of musical Zen. I have just dubbed one of the defense lawyers Mason non Perry, after Clemens non Papa. The name of the judge in this case is Belvin Perry, so we have a real life Perry-Mason case on our hands.

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