His pent-up memory earned him a life sentence for murder. Was it real?

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The reason eyewitness testimony requires corroboration in a criminal trial is because memory – an internal narrative that cannot be verified by anyone else and that can consciously or unconsciously change over time through various factors – is inherently unreliable. Yet in 1990 a jury ruled that George Franklin was guilty of the 1969 murder of Susan Nason, the best friend of his 8-year-old daughter, Eileen, on the sole basis of adult Eileen’s claim that, while looking his child in the eyes, she was suddenly assailed by a hitherto forgotten vision of her father fatally hitting Susan with a large stone.

Eileen thus became the child star of modern repressed memory theory, which argues that when faced with unthinkable trauma, people often lock memories of these experiences into a deep, dark subconscious compartment, where it can have no effect. on their daily life. -day life. These individuals are, in fact, completely oblivious to their memories, until they arise due to unexpected stimuli. It was certainly the story passed down by Eileen and adopted by prosecutors (and their team of experts) who jumped at the chance to use Eileen’s unique circumstances to bring George to justice. It follows a court case like few others, relying as it did on the reliability of star witness Eileen, a freckled redhead who admitted she grew up very close to her father, but who was now convinced she had seen him. devilishly taking the life of his childhood friend.

Writers / Directors Yotam Guendelman and Ari Pines four-part Showtime docuseries Buried (October 11) is a story about sexual abuse, family dysfunction, and the nature of reasonable doubt. It is mostly, however, an investigation into the plausibility of Eileen’s repressed memory mark. Since there was no other physical or anecdotal evidence to suggest that George was directly responsible for Susan’s murder, the prosecution relied exclusively on Eileen’s unsubstantiated version of events. From the start, however, Eileen was not very believable. She said she and George went to pick up Susan on the morning of her disappearance, only to change gears and say it happened in the afternoon. She admitted that she had a book and movie deal in the works (which ultimately resulted in the 1992 TV movie Fatal memories starring Shelley Long as Eileen), revealing her financial motive for seeing her father sentenced. She also remembered being raped by one of George’s friends, but after saying the abuser was black, she turned around and claimed he was actually her white uncle ( the confusion allegedly came from a poster of Jimi Hendrix hanging on the wall).

Most damning of all, she told many people that she first remembered George’s homicide under hypnosis, but then – surely after learning that the hypnosis-related evidence was inadmissible. in California courts because they couldn’t be trusted – she changed her story and denied ever having gone through the process.

As true crime aficionados know, eyewitnesses are wrong at least as often as they are right, purely because of the way the human mind works. Therefore, Eileen is doing terribly Buried. At the booth, she appears to be performing for an audience – something she would do later The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Today and countless other TV shows – and Guendelman and Pines’ expertly edited collection of audio interviews, courtroom footage, text transcripts, and handouts and dramatic recreations have dug several holes in its integrity. In particular, a staged sequence in which George leaves to commit murder as the sunlight changes from morning to afternoon (in keeping with Eileen’s shifting version of events) underscores his inherent doubt.

Also, questioning Eileen’s account, the details she remembered about George’s attack had all been reported in the press before, meaning her view was based on information in the public domain and to prove this point, Guendelman and Pines cleverly juxtapose his testimony. with corresponding passages from newspaper articles. That this fact was prevented from being presented in court was a key cause of George’s initial life sentence – well, that and the revelation that he was a pedophile who had physically and sexually assaulted his five children. Like George’s appeals lawyer Dennis Riordan, Buried acknowledges that the accused was a monster who deserved to be behind bars, while suggesting that the repressed memories are far from hermetic, and certainly not sufficient on their own, to secure a just conviction.

“That this fact was prevented from being presented in court was a key cause of George’s initial life sentence – well, that and the revelation that he was a pedophile who had physically and sexually assaulted his five children.“

Buried give ample time to the District Attorneys who were sure Eileen was telling the truth, and to the defense attorneys, namely Douglas Horngrad, the Voice of Reason, who viewed the repressed memories as “voodoo psychology.” Critical experts also have their say over the many inconsistencies in Eileen’s thread and the science of repressed memories. In the final installment of the series, there is so much to be wary of Eileen’s story that speakers barely find time to address the underlying, ridiculous idea that George willingly brought his daughter. impressionable to watch him murder his best friend. When, after George’s initial guilty verdict, Eileen began to regain more memories and accuse her father of being a serial killer responsible for the rape and murder of Veronica Cascio, which she too apparently attended in person – it is as if she is deliberately testing the limits of everyone’s faith.

The DNA evidence ultimately exonerated George from Cascio’s murder and in doing so clearly demonstrated the fallibility of Eileen’s repressed memories. The increasingly fractured relationships of the Franklin siblings during this time only exacerbated the feeling that multiple motivations were at play here, from Eileen and her sister Janice’s desire to see their father punished for them. misdeeds he committed against them, to their passive mother Leah’s interest in coming forward. like the loving mother figure she would have liked to be. Take into account Eileen’s thirst for fame, her lingering wounds from a troubling childhood, and George’s deviant urges, and what remains is a saga in which the only thing worth rooting in is the foundational principle that no one should ever spend their life behind bars simply for the basis of a repressed memory.

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