Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Latest Media Crime/Trial Extravaganza

I don’t know how many horrendous crimes there are in the US each year, but periodically the media picks out one and this becomes the big story. We all can’t help but follow it because it catches fire, making its way into all  media outlets. The latest one is the Caylee Anthony murder trial. This case proved to be typical of the cases that are played out in the media. It turned out to be frustratingly dissatisfying because we never find out what really happened.

This case is over now and but more  questions were left unanswered than were answered. I heard three different theories as to how little Caylee died. One originally told by her mother Casey, then the one presented by the prosecution and a different one presented by Casey’s defense lawyers. None of them were substantiated by hard evidence. None of them explained why Casey’s trunk smelled like a dead body, how the body got out to the woods and why  there was duct tape on the skeletal remains. These seem like pretty important questions that need to be answered. But getting down to the truth of what really happened did not seem to be a priority with either side in this trial.

Who investigated this case anyway? It certainly wasn’t Lt. Colombo. He would have kept showing up  asking questions and being such a nuisance that the murderer would confess just to get rid of him. And if Perry Mason were prosecuting the case, of course he would have had to switch from being a defense lawyer, he would have made sure that Casey Anthony took the stand so that he could verbally break her down until she blurted out a confession. During the trial, Perry would have sent Della Street out of the court room only  to return later with a critical piece of evidence that PI Paul Drake dug up somewhere. Don’t  Casey Anthony’s lawyers watch TV?

When I worked as a Sex Offender Therapist for a few years, we routinely subjected our clients to lie detector tests. It was an excellent way to keep them on the straight and narrow.One lie detector test was not conclusive proof however, but a series of them over time had a high rate of validity. We know that Caylee’s mother, Casey is a chronic liar so she doesn’t need to be tested. But if they gave the trial lawyers lie detector tests, this would help keep them focused on the actual facts of the case instead of wandering off into their own fabricated stories.

The other big media case that comes to mind is the OJ Simpson trial. OJ’s lawyer, Johnny Cochran, became so famous because of this case that he was the inspiration for a character on Seinfeld.  At the time of the OJ trial, I was teaching classes for perpetrators of domestic violence. One of my teaching tools was The Violence Continuum. On one end of the chart is verbal and emotional abuse and on the other is death. The theory being, if nothing changed in the relationship and there was no therapeutic intervention, the likelihood was that the violence would escalate over time and end with one of the partners killing the other. Statistically it was more likely that the man killed the woman, but sometimes it was the other way around. The OJ case was a perfect illustration of how the chart worked and I used it as an example in my classes. But the case didn’t end up like it was supposed to. Johnny ruined my teaching tool. The glove didn’t fit.

In his “tell all” book, “If I Did It”, OJ tried to cash in on the brutal murder by writing his version of the crime, but because of public outcry, it was never officially published. It was however  leaked to the media.  I read a synopsis on line and OJ portrays himself as sort of an innocent bystander at the at the death of his wife Nicole and Ron Goldman. He just happened to be standing over the bodies, holding a knife with blood all over him. Go figure, But like Johnny Cochran said “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.

I don’t think we’ll ever find out for sure what really happened to Caylee Anthony. If Casey Anthony ever writes a book, how could we believe it? Psychiatric experts have suggested that Casey probably has Anti Social Personality Disorder and/or Narcissistic Personality disorder. These diagnoses are similar in that the individuals do not have empathy for others. They live their lives like actors playing different roles as the situation changes. Without a stable integrating ego, they are totally self centered, motivated by unresolved childhood conflicts and trauma. The mistake many people make is judging others from their own frame of reference. If Casey is antisocial and narcissistic, she has an entirely different way of viewing the world.

After watching all the outraged people standing outside the courtroom screaming and holding up signs, I decided that Casey represents a side of ourselves that is repressed and resides in the shadow side of our psyches. Why else would we get so angry and want to see her punished. I’m not saying we all secretly want to kill our kids and go party, but there is a selfish side to our natures that at times surfaces when a child pushes our limits. Anyone who’s raised a teenager knows what I’m talking about. The majority of us are able to keep this dark side at bay, so in spite of how we sometimes feel, we continue to do the right thing and what’s best for our child.

Concerning the feeling of utter frustration these trials leave us with, maybe the answer is to withdraw from the real world into the fictional one. Even though Robert Parker died last year, I was pleased to learn that another writer will continue to write his Jesse Stone novels. I can count on Jesse to figure it all out and wrap up the case neatly by the end of the book. Peter Falk is also gone now, but I think watching some Colombo reruns might help as well, at least until the media decides what its next crime/trial extravaganza will be.

I still think Clarence Thomas sexually harassed Anita Hill?

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