The victim, Paul W, sustained massive head trauma
, was shot point blank and then scorched beyond recognition. Police found his remains moldering in an isolated sinkhole off Delaware Bay. Clues to his identity
were microscopic. Dental traces led nowhere. Paul had been one of those rare few to get through life without significant dental work. Positive identification hinged on analysis of mitochondrial DNA.
The alleged murder had been staged to look like a robbery gone bad. Syringes and other drug paraphernalia were left behind. Like the fox who leaves his scent on a stone halfway ‘cross a stream before doubling back, misleading clues were scattered about the crime scene. Discovering the corpse was made possible by decoding emails that, oddly enough, were first considered as exculpatory.
The victim had been part of a triangle. The prime suspect’s wife had been the victim’s lover.
Although he worked long hours, seven days most weeks, the detective who cracked the case took twenty-eight months before he had enough accumulated evidence to justify an arrest. The alleged killer is charged with first degree felony murder in connection with the January 2010 carnage.
Some facts of the case were ordinary – a husband’s unmitigated jealousy
. Other’s protruded beyond the everyday – the suspect’s connections reached from the tribal community that barely survived at the edge of the Tenere Desert of Niger to the top brass of the now-deposed Mauritanian junta to a quartet of backstreet Paramus shooting galleries.
People who knew Paul figured he had tried to reason with his attacker. Paul had marked each day with confidence and could think on his feet. He is a man many miss. What kind of man was the alleged killer? His genetic stock included contributions from four of the seven continents. Most recently a Sino-African union had brought him to, and then from, the coast of Nigeria before settling in New York. Orphaned early, he spent childhood and adolescence in foster settings. He had called four overburdened females, each in her time, mommy. Skirmishes with peers and authority figures formed the backdrop of his formative years. Although he recalled kindnesses, they were few and far between and created an appetite for a deeper acceptance that was never experienced. A considerable aptitude for computer science and strong facility with numbers brought him considerable academic and material success. Those who spent time with him, and who could be reached for comment, stated that he was slow to smile and quick to anger. In spite of a predilection for solitude, he had married and fathered two children.
The lead detective, the man who had kept track of each quick twist and hard turn along the blood trail made this statement (paraphrased): “The funny thing about this slaying is that it was committed by a sane person. The murderer had an honor code. He felt that the victim had turned his wife against him, and therefore it was his sworn duty to eliminate this man. Because he felt the victim had taken away his last chance for happiness.”
The detective had pierced numerous contradictions on his way to discrediting the killer’s alibi. But when considering evidence of the man’s sanity he relied on the first flotsam to float his way.
The detective, in solving the crime, makes full use of cortical faculties -- decision-making, planning, prioritizing and so on. The integration of all these capacities – applying the full mind or mindfulness -- makes it possible for the officer to keep complexity from clouding comprehensibility. The thought devoted to evaluating the man’s sanity is of a different order.
Mindfulness speaks to possibilities for holding up a fact, as if it were a hologram, and walking around it, examining it from all angles, including what it feels like to examine it – the awareness of the what it feels like to be aware of it.
balanced mind = mindfulness
The detective listened for clues and listened to himself listening to those clues all up and down the Delaware River and round the caverns of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. If the internal ordering of the burnt-to-the-ground and washed-away evidence had gone to ash and mush inside our man’s mind, the evidentiary chain would have snapped simultaneously. The one was linked inextricably to the other.
The detective used himself as an integral part of the detection process. He used his own reactions to what he was learning to monitor the quality and direction of the investigation. Eventually he visualized himself inside that room in which Paul's fate was contained. In his mind’s eye he saw Paul fall again and again; each time in a different way.
The opposite of a mindful investigation would be one conducted on automatic pilot, without benefit of a reflective capacity. In this sense the criminal investigation was mindful. While in evaluating the suspect’s sanity, the words that the man spoke are seized at face value as proven wisdom; there is no scrutiny or additional layer of reflectiveness applied to the information received.
Does it make sense that criminal behavior would be infinitely complicated but criminal personality structure would reveal itself in a flash? It’s as if to say that ruling in or out what people have done is more complicated than ruling in or out who they are.
Cultural myths such as: men present themselves as they are; or ‘boys will be boys’; or ‘what you see is what you get’ when you deal with male psychology; or ‘Women,’ as the pre-feminist stereotype goes, ‘can be devious but men can be read like a book’ – this ilk of hackneyed thinking seems to prevail here.
The detective seems to believe that a man who acts in the world, even when that act is murder, demonstrates his identity. And that we can read not only his state of mind but the structure of his mind, including his relative sanity or lack of sanity, by assessing his comment/explication of what he has done.
As we approach questions related to sanity we need to ask: What part of his brain was the alleged killer using when he plotted against and pursued his victim? Since the honor code affected the
attacker’s decision-making and planning, can we say that his mindset included any of these elements: balance, mindfulness, sanity?
Was the killer’s way of thinking — his honor code — the key to understanding his motivation? Was he pushed to enact the deed by a way of thinking? Or did the emotional frame, a frame of rage, color whatever thoughts he held about this honor code in such a way that the idea came screaming through his psychic surround like a bullet through a barrel?
Or could it be that his emotional make-up, the deeper context from which the criminal behavior issued, was as cold and hard as the steel before the gunshot?
-----------------Part 2 will appear next Tuesday -----------------------