Saturday , May 25 2024
If a female witness controls her emotions she's 'cold'; if she breaks down, she's either 'acting' or 'unstable'.

The Falconio Trial: Following the Usual Scripts

Australian editors are traditionally interested in the Northern Territory only for crocodile wrestling stories and lurid murder trials; the ongoing Falconio hearing definitely falls the latter category.

A brief summary: a British couple were driving along an Outback highway. She reports that their car was flagged down, the man was shot, she was tied up, but fled and hid in the bush for five hours, before flagging down a passing truck. The boyfriend is presumed dead, but no body has been found.

As might be predicted, media coverage depicting Darwin as “Hicksville” has upset the locals. The Chief Justice is ensuring he gets his name in all the papers, asking of the writer of the offending article: “How did he get out? Presumably by horse and carriage?” Entirely in line with the script.

Also in line with the script, all aspects of the reputation of the dead man’s partner is being trashed in court, despite the fact that she is a victim of forced imprisonment, serious assault etc and spent many hours in fear of her life. The fact that all of the details she gave of her ordeal, no doubt in a state of shock soon after, and subsequently, don’t exactly square up, is hardly a surprise.

From what I know of the nature of memory in shocking circumstances (some from personal experience), she will have eventually constructed out of fragmentary memories of periods of terror and panic a coherent narrative for herself – as would anyone; there’s nothing solid about memory.

Actually, she’s already been found guilty of not being sufficiently “womanly” – ie not breaking down in public – just like Lindy Chamberlain (whose baby was taken by a dingo. She subsequently spent years in jail, guilty of not crying for the cameras.)

But of course had either woman done so, she would have been at fault too – either for “acting” or being “unstable”.

Find more like this on Philobiblon, where an attorney has left some interesting comments about her own experiences.

About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.

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