Left or found?

I would not be a good juror for the Entwistle case.  Despite not knowing all the facts, despite understanding the odd reactions of people under stress, I think he killed his wife and child, and that judgment may not be fair.  Statements by Entwistle himself have been made out to support my judgment, however.  Joseph Matterazzo, the murdered woman’s stepfather, testified that while on the phone with him discussing funeral arrangements, Entwistle had requested the two be buried together “because that’s the way I left them, I mean, that’s the way I found them”.

Could this slip of the tongue be the ultimate revelation of guilt?  Could Entwistle’s glee at escaping the US and potentially getting away with his crime have cause him to become tongue tied?  Or could the emotional stress of the moment be the only factor causing the slip?  He was, after all, talking to a man who he may have felt close to, a man he could slip with.

Still, I think we’re reading too much into this.  Sometimes, without cause, I lose my balance and stumble.  Sometimes I have difficulty getting a complete sentence out.  Neither of these accidental actions has thus far had anything to do with me killing anyone, nor do I think they ever will.  In addition, if he killed both of them, he still could’ve found them both in bed.  Even if he didn’t kill them, he still left them there.  Even his correction of himself could have been due to guilt at abandoning their bodies and not reporting a crime, rather than guilt at actually killing them.  But then, with so much of our justice system relying on eyewitness accounts, on personal opinion, on the interpretation of voice tone, body language, and facial expression, and on the rationality of various jurors that it will always be hard to grant fairness.  But perhaps that’s the way its supposed to be.

The Rights of the Dead.

When someone says ‘dead body’ the resultant thought image could be gristly.  But death is the inevitable fate we all share.  While some types of death are perhaps more unfortunate than others, the end result is the same.  In considering this result, people all over the world have had different responses.  While some of them, such as the ancient Egyptian belief that the soul or ka returns to its bodily housing each night, regard the body as a necessary part of the afterlife, others count the husk immaterial after death.  Those beliefs should be given equal respect, despite the needs of those still living.

Take for example an untimely and suspicious death.  Autopsies are required, investigations must proceed, and the corpse or the soul of the departed might be materially harmed by such invasions according to some belief.  Should the needs of society in this case outweigh the individual’s need?  And what of disagreements on how a person should be buried, even within the remaining family?  Or what of the famous dead?  I doubt Mao wanted to be preserved and stared at for decades, or that Shakespeare wanted people to come stare at the spot in the floor where he was once placed.  But who can speak for the dead but living descendants or the public, and who knows that wishes are being fulfilled?

And yet there are people who seek to reclaim what they can from loss, not only for those left behind, but for the rights of the dead themselves.  Take the work of forensic anthropologists in Peru recently.  A massacre site that may (or may not) contain bodies of Shining Path rebels was uncovered that certainly has bodies of children.  DNA testing is being used to identify which bodies might be from families who escaped complete slaughter.  Those remaining will then have time to grieve, knowing for certain the fate of their lost ones.  But what is most telling for me in this article is fear that they will not be able to identify those whose entire families were killed in the slaughter.  To me, that says these people have rights, even in death: a right to justice, and to have the crimes perpetrated against them known.

It reminds me of Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje.  There is a way that people become enveloped in the past that the book illuminates, both against their will and better judgment and as a matter or curiosity or morals or any of the other forces that spurs us to action.  Still, within this work as well there is a sense among several characters of the right of loss, the right of those dead who have no one else to speak for themselves.  It’s haunting, in a way, this ultimate fairness we can’t seem to extend to the people we live next to.