Saturday, June 17, 2006

The First 48 Hours

I have taken to watching late night crime shows every now and then. You know, the brainy ones like CourtTV that show you, in the unlikely case you decide to go tearing off to the dark side, exactly how to cover up the most heinous of crimes by not doing the dumb stuff that gets these amateur criminals caught.

A new one that is a pretty subtle rip-off of the 24-style of cinematography is a show called The First 48. Now the reason I mention this, other than to sneak in a confession that I'm a chronic channel-flipper bound to drive my future significant-other to madness, is that the other night there was a really interesting episode involving what was turning out to be a revenge killing in some neighborhood in the south, I think Tennessee.

The investigator had brought in her suspect for questioning and prefaced the scene with a statement to the effect of, "We really need to get a confession out of him." Now the investigator is a stocky black woman with simple but pleasant features. I didn't take much notice of her as the show followed her between the crime scene and the police station. One scene even showed her in such a mundane situation as showcasing some items in her closet, such as her interrogation jacket ("this one really gets the confessions," or something to that effect), and a large purse ("especially good for carrying my gun").

All that changed when she stepped into the interrogation room though. What she brought to bear was not only riveting, but completely unexpected. I'll try to do her justice but bear in mind this is paraphrasing. Speaking to the suspect:

"Now I know that the man killed last night was actually involved in a murder a ways back, he shot your brother, right?" No answer.

"Now sometimes things happen and I'm not saying it's right, but you know, I understand." Stoic silence.

"You've been carrying this torch for a long time, and that's a lot of burden for a man to carry." The man — boy, really — puts his head down on the table and starts to cry.

"I know how hard it is to be a black man in this town. You know sometimes s*** happens and sometimes black men don't know the right way to respond; you probably didn't have any role models showing you what to do and how to behave. I know, it's hard. Now I want to help you but you need to let me." And with that he is sobbing, covering his face, as if trying desperately to save it and whatever dignity he has left.

The scene finally ends without him confessing but later on I think it is mentioned that he does eventually break. What is so startling to me was this detective's ability to connect immediately with all that he had stored up emotionally. It was surprisingly skillful and very moving, as if I too had come in contact with all the stored up neglect, anger and futility that led to this tragically pivotal point in the young man's life.

At the same time the thought lurked in my mind that while the detective stated she was there to help the suspect, the audience is privy to the fact that if he refused to confess, they might not have a case to prosecute. Of course from the spiritual perspective, I believe it really would be helping him to coax him into admitting the truth, and that "getting away with murder," had it ended that way, really wouldn't be. I couldn't help but wonder, though, if the detective herself was really thinking that far ahead, considering the tone of her statement right before the interrogation. Regardless — kudos, detective.

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