Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Cognitive Dissonance and Child Murder

Nobody wants to believe that a father would kill his child, no matter what the circumstances; especially a father who seems mentally normal and capable of making intelligent decisions that affect his life, such as marriage, employment and recreation. Even calculated decisions that are self-centered are still decisions. We think of a parent that kills his child as someone who must be mentally ill. A seemingly normal person could not violate the laws of nature so blithely. Our natural resistance to trusting evidence that points to a father killing his child in cold blood out of entirely selfish motives is referred to as “cognitive dissonance”. It’s a wall our minds build against accepting facts contrary to our ingrained belief system.

The jurors in California v. Brown are probably experiencing this cognitive dissonance as they deliberate the evidence in the case. They have to not only wrap their minds around the science and gruesome medical facts of a child falling from over 100 feet to her death, but also the incomprehensible concept that a father would intentionally throw the child over like a piece of stray baggage. Theirs is not a task any of us would envy.

Does the jury trust Craig Hum and Jeff Leslie? Do they trust Geragos? Has Geragos kept his promises? Judging by his opening statements, he hasn’t. Instead, he resorted to “bait and switch” maneuvers with regard to witnesses he promised to deliver, including one who saw Brown crying over his daughter’s body, screaming, “Don’t die! Please don’t die.” What happened to that witness? Similarly, Geragos promised to refute the forensic and scientific evidence as “hooey”! Judging by what was reported in newspapers and on the radio, that didn’t happen, either. If the defense possessed the “exculpatory evidence” it claimed, why didn’t it present this months (or years) ago when Brown was cooling his heels in jail? If the jury’s trust in Geragos is realistically scant, perhaps the length of the deliberations (going into its fourth day) is due to cognitive dissonance. I suspect there are a couple of hold-out jurors who cannot grasp the cruel reality of this murder.

Geragos struggled to sell Brown as an innocent, falsely-accused man incapable of violence or malicious intent toward his child. He tried to convince the jurors of Brown’s loving relationship with Lauren without putting him on the stand. He tried to defuse the economic motive by arguing the unlikely scenario that the Browns had access to $60K in retirement accounts and property value. Besides trying to portray Brown as a great father and provider, he attempted to refute the scientific and forensic evidence with relatively weak witnesses.

Did Geragos’s lame defense actually send a signal to the jurors that his client is guilty?

The jurors will want to leave this trial feeling good about their decision. Will they be able to face their families, communities, and selves with a “not guilty” verdict? Will they hang and thus prolong the already tortuous agony to the victims’ family and leave the decision to another jury of their fellow Californians?

Can they acquit Brown based on a few snapshots, a birthday cake and a life-sized doll? I submit that they will not. They will overcome their cognitive dissonance and bring back a verdict of guilty. Keep the faith.


CountryGirl said...

Beautifully written Loretta.

I have faith!

I will light my candle again tonight for Lauren and Sarah, and their families and friends.

Again, I thank Craig Hum and Jeff Leslie (and Danny Smith, wherever you are!) for seeking justice for Lauren Sarene Key-Marer.

loretta said...

I finally found a candle I can light. I had to unpack about 4,256 boxes.

Mgt. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
loretta said...

Oh, I think "hatred" is a bit harsh. It requires much too much energy. "Contempt" and "Disgust" are more like it.

I hate what these guys do and how it affects the victims and families and our communities, but they are not worth the energy required to actually HATE them.

loretta said...

I don't hate Cam Brown, I pity him. Imagine having to spend the rest of your life being an accused (and possibly convicted, soon) child murderer - of your own little child?

Even if it were an accident (which it wasn't), nobody would want to trade places with him. Who could bear to live with that?

He's doomed to a life of emptiness and brain-crushing boredom. I suppose he deserves it, but I pity and disdain him more than I despise him. I'm sure Lauren's family has other feelings.

Dane said...

 Jury Argument Patterns
      Ann Burnett, Michelle Shumate, and Anthony OcaƱa
      North Dakota State University 

Jury Decision-Making
      Similar to the research in interpersonal and small group argument, jury research has centered on the individual. Early jury research focused on juror characteristics such as personality traits (e.g., Mitchell & Byrne, 1973), juror sex (e.g., Simon, 1980), and juror bias (e.g., Kaplan & Miller, 1978). More recent research has focused on issues such as attitudes about the death penalty (Allen, Mabry & McKelton, 1998) and understanding Generation X jurors (Vesper, 1998). In general, researchers have concluded that juror characteristics are not good predictors of verdict (Saks, 1997; Simon, 1980).

Psychology and Jury Research 
Pennington and Hastie (1990)

The Social Psychology of Jury deliberation: 
Social psychologist note that typically all problem solving groups (including juries) go through three stages in making decisions. 
1.An open-ended orientation: At the start of the discussion everyone is relaxed, the agenda is set, questions are raised and the facts explored.
Differences of opinions start to become obvious (in juries usually after the first vote), this leads to; 
1.Open conflict: characterised by arguments and members of the group subdividing into sharply divergent groups.
If an agreement is reached then a verdict is returned. However, if no agreement is reached then the majority try to convert others to their position. (They use both information and social pressure to achieve this).
NB cliques may form and irrational competitive considerations may prevail 
1.This is a phase of reconciliation, where conflicts are smoothed over.
If the holdouts do not change their position then the jury returns a hung jury verdict.

Literature Review on Jury Decision Making
by Kelly Hoffart
for CTA-399
December 15, 2003

Would a judge make a better decision? Vidmar (1989) found that juries reached the same verdict as a judge would have on his own in 78% of 3000 cases. In cases of discrepancy, the jury will be more likely to favor the defendant, and isn’t it better to let a guilty man free than to imprison an innocent one?

...[H]ow it is that juries make their decisions? A common answer to this question is that jurors create stories (Diamond, Casper, & Ostergren, 1989, Ellsworth, 1989, MacCoun, 1989, Pennington & Hastie, 1986). Pennington and Hastie (1986) found that evidence is evaluated as it fits into a plausible story, and any gaps between testimonies are filled by a plausible story. The stories themselves are based on cause-effect reasoning (Pennington & Hastie, 1986). Ellsworth (1989) found that “deliberation seems to work quite well in bringing out the facts and arriving at a consensus about their sequence. Errors are corrected, and irrelevant facts and implausible scenarios are generally weeded out” (p223).

So, the jurors rarely disagree on the facts (Ellsworth, 1989). The relevant issue at hand is the law. The stories themselves are directly related to elements of possible verdicts (Pennington & Hastie, 1986), and the verdict is specifically how the law applies to the facts. Votes are only likely to change when discussing the law, and, though they take the law seriously, juries may not be able to understand it (Ellsworth, 1989). The jurors may also act as a mediator between the law and the norms of the community (Diamond, Casper, & Ostergren, 1989). According to Reskin and Visher (1986), “facts and values in a trial are intertwined in jurors’ decisions” (p. 435). Is not applying only the law a problem? Possibly not, as the writers of the Constitution undoubtedly intended jury trials to partly balance community norms with the law.

Furthermore, in “How Jurors Really think: A Primer In Jury Psychology” it is stated that it would be a mistake to underestimate the intelligence and cognitive abilities of juries.

From :
Jury Decision Making FAQs

How often do trials end in a hung jury?
Hung jury rates vary, but remain low in state courts.
A recent study undertaken by the National Center for State Courts and National Institute of Justice examined hung jury rates in 28 state and federal courts from 1996 to 1998. The overall average hung jury rate for the jurisdictions was 6.2 percent.

How often do juries convict defendants in criminal cases?
According to the Court Statistics Project, juries convict defendants in criminal cases approximately 75 percent of the time.

Moreover, it is alleged, juries in complex trials will have greater difficulty understanding and remembering the court's instructions, and properly applying the law to the facts. Faced with such a burden, say critics, jurors who are untrained in science and technology are ill-equipped for sound fact finding. As a result, critics allege, jurors will base their decisions less on the evidence and a careful consideration of the reliability of expert testimony, than on external cues, such as the perceived relative expertise and status of the expert witnesses, and will be more susceptible to "junk science" and emotional appeals.4
Intuitively then, we would expect juries to have enormous difficulties with the complex legal issues and scientific evidence that will confront the courts as disputes involving the strange, new world of human genetics and statistical probabilities become more commonplace. We would expect, as well, new proposals for replacing juries with such expert bodies as science courts and expert or "blue ribbon" panels. At the same time, however, a growing body of research on juries and their performance in both "simple" and complex cases is giving us a different picture.5 This research, based on case studies and "lab" or experimental studies, shows that jurors, rather than giving up in the face of voluminous evidence and conflicting expert opinions, take their fact-finding and decision-making responsibilities seriously.
The research shows that while certain elements of complex trials do tax jurors' comprehension and understanding, there is no firm evidence that their judgments have therefore been wrong. Jurors are in fact capable of resolving highly complex cases. These studies have also shown that factors such as length of trial, and evidentiary complexity in itself, are not necessarily the critical factors in jury performance in complex matters. The problem presented by conflicting testimony of experts hired by the respective parties, for example, is present in simple as well as complex cases. Finally, the research shows that jurors, rather than being passive participants in the trial process, are active decision makers and want to understand. Jurors actively process evidence, make inferences, use their common sense, have individual and common experiences that inform their decision making, and form opinions as a trial proceeds

The Powerful and  Mysterious American Jury: Common Misunderstandings by Attorneys, Judges and the Public 
by Joyce E. Tsongas and Arthur D. Monson

Misunderstanding Two: Most Complex Cases Are Too Difficult for a Typical Jury to Understand
It is common for trial attorneys and judges to become discouraged about the ability of a typical jury to understand the complex aspects of difficult cases, including product litigation, business contract cases, accounting malpractice, intellectual property, or any other type of litigation involving complex technical issues. It is important to be concerned about explaining complex issues to juries, but it is has been our experience that it is not impossible. Clear case presentation can benefit not only jury decision-making, but judicial decision-making as well.
We have learned from conducting mock trials and debriefing many trial juries that jurors can understand even the most complex case issues. This research has led us to believe juries are capable of understanding the underlying principles and arguments of nearly any case, but only if they are explained clearly and carefully. Indeed, while viewing tapes of mock-trial jury deliberations, attorneys and their clients often express surprise at the acumen of individuals and groups they initially believed, based on demographics, would be incapable of understanding complex arguments or evidence.

Ronni said...

Geez, Dane! Write a book, or something!

Ronni said...

mgt., there is already a poster here with that nic. can you find another?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nadine said...

Not bossy, anonymous, she's just looking out for our own.

Mgt said...

Thank you, Ronni and Nadine!

Hopefully, this Jury is thinking of LWOP and just want to dot all their 'I's and cross all their 'T's.

CG, please check my IP.

Mgt(2), wrong time of day, honey!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Loretta and Country Girl for keeping me updated on this trial. I do not envy these jurors either. I hope that Cam's mental health is not an issue in the deliberations. Didn't Geragos plant that seed towards the end of the trial? Cam was well enough to function in society and find joy in recreational pursuits, women, and partying. His ability to fool his friends in Cherry Hills and California with his "boy scout deeds" is nauseating. His narcissism, detatchment, and his ability to turn people against each other just indicates to me that the man is just plain evil. The anonymous bloggers who know Cam, such as myself, are just afraid of what he is capable of inside or outside of prison, and they should be. I will pray for Sarah and her family, and I will pray for the jury too....

Ronni said...

If Geragos was serious about a mental health defense, he would have had to have Cam examined by a shrink who was willing to get up and state that he suffered from whatever disorder.

Just more Geragos spaghetti!

loretta said...

I deleted the imposter "Mgt" whoever that was.

Ronni said...

Just as well, though it's possible that it was someone not familiar with Mgt.

mgt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mgt said...

Not me, again!

CountryGirl said...

mgt 8:20am,

Please choose another nick. We already have a mgt who has posted here since we opened the blog.

mgt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
CountryGirl said...

Do you see the box below that says 'Other'? Use that and put in another name. When you use someone's name who has been here (and we know) it causes confusion.

loretta said...

Take it from me, someone who has had a blog almost 4 years - just delete him. POOF.

Don't argue with him, reason with him, just poof him.

Breezy said...

For a normal loving person to understand that evil does exist is difficult. They read the newspaper and see that a man has killed his entire family, the children he was there for when they were born and thinks of it as a movie on TV. They fail to realize that this was someone else's reality. It DID happen. They read about a mother who voluntarily drownes her children one at a time. Children she gave birth to. They write this off as a temporary mental disorder, something so far from reality that belongs in a freak show or on Ripley's Believe it or not.

When they are faced with the harsh reality that these things happen in their own town, to someone they know or to the person they are sitting on the jury of; it is difficult to reconcile. Loretta hit the nail on the head with her essay. Defense attornies are careful not to ever allow a juror that is remotely familiar with such reality to sit in judgement of their client. They prefer the juror that lives in a bubble and thinks that the only violence is on movies done by actors and stunt men that all get up and shake hands at a job well done while cashing their paychecks. People that can make an excuse for anything, call it an accident, claim temporary insanity or an act of God (shudder). The kind of person that sees everything through rose colored glasses except the way others pick on him or her.

The pros try hard to find jurors with some semblance of reality that they can sneak past the defense. When the state and it's people are truly protected, the jury has common sense and a foot in the real world. They are able to come to a correct verdict.

I am praying that this jury is just taking their time to dot the i's and cross the t's. That each member has the ability to reason and knows the difference between fantasy and reality. And the candle burns...

jonaskinny said...

can you put up an rss feed? We are most likely close to the end of deliberations and it would be great to get the news as soon as its available.

CountryGirl said...

Since there will be a 2 hour notice for the verdict we will put up a new post (not in the comment section) as soon as we get the phone call.

loretta said...

For those of you who subscribe to an RSS feed service, we have an RSS feed on the sidebar for updates so you don't have to keep coming over here.

You can click on the orange "chicklet" icon or the link to subscribe.

CountryGirl said...

Thank you Loretta!

Just got off the phone--no verdict notice yet.

Skye said...

Every morning I expect to log on and find there is a verdict. Alas! I am disappointed again.

Thanks for keeping vigil, CG and Loretta.

I'm worried, but refuse to lose hope!

Anonymous said...

I think there is one or two holdouts.I guess geragas blinded them with his expensive suits.I don't know anymore. I hope there is going to be a verdict today.Justice for Lauren and her family.

PSP said...

If he goes free, you should all be disappointed in yourself for acting like children waiting for him to fry. If he is guilty, he gets what he deserves. Let the jury speak and we can then feel like we are not a bunch wanna be lawyers.

Breezy said...

I certainly never expected CB to fry. This is NOT a death penalty case. LWOP is the best we can hope for. I , personally would feel no disappointment in myself, only the jurors bamboozled by Mr. Ego.

One thing have learned is that I can only speak for myself. I don't wannabe a lawyer. LOL. It is more fun and rewarding to critique those that are still practicing. And we know why they call it practice, right?

It's Friday, I think the jury will come back with a verdict today, too late to go to their jobs but early enough to give interviews to the press. It seems to be the way jurors work in California. But that is just an opinion.

jonaskinny said...


I did not see the orange icon.... I'm used to the 'xml' or 'rss' icon instead. My bad.

Thanks Loretta.

Skye said...

My thoughts go out to Sarah and her family. May you get Justice!

With all the combined energy being generated there should be a guilty verdict. I'm hoping!

loretta said...

Hey, PSP, if you are going to be a troll here, could you at least communicate with correct grammar?

It should be "you should all be disappointed in yourselves" and who feels like a "wanna be lawyer" and who is acting like a child?

Speak for yourself.

CountryGirl said...

This isn't about playing lawyer.

This is about a defenseless 4 year old child named Lauren who was murdered by her biological father.

The only disappointment I will feel is if he gets less than 1st degree murder/LWOP. Then I will be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Where's the Rock? An innocent father would have never lied about the rock. An innocent father would have run immediately to where he thought his child was. An innocent father would have testified in his own defence. Cameron John Brown is a child murderer and a terrible liar. May there be some measure of justice for Lauren and the people who loved her. P.S. Perhaps the reason that Patty wasn't at the trial is that she was at home doing more black magic. It will eventually come back to her magnified. Keep the Faith!

Elizabeth said...

I thought Patty was banned from the trial? Just like his father, but his father got back in.

Prayers for Sarah and all of Lauren's family. I hope they come up with a verdict today so that they don't have to wait for one until Monday.

Who would "wanna be a lawyer" here? Not a soul. We're having too much fun bashing Geragos.

BTW, my cousin is an Assistant States Attorney in Chicago - has been for 20 years. All lawyers aren't bad. She is actually in the internal affairs division. She makes sure rotten cops pay for their crimes.


Nadine said...

Elizabeth makes a good point. All attorneys aren't bad. There are some very noble ones out there, and bless them for that.

I think most of us here would agree, however, that the name Geragos brings with it the kiss of death.

A good way to look at his track record is this: His failure to prove Scott Peterson innocent resulted in justice. For that reason, I look at his being Cam Brown's attorney a good thing. I don't have any doubt that CB will pay a heavy price for his crimes.

All the posturing and Armani suits in the world can't hide the fact that CB is guilty.

Anonymous said...

Hello Loretta, I was trying to get to your blog misfitting but it is not working, at least on my computer, is it me or your blog is really down?

loretta said...

pick a nick or don't expect a response from me. I don't respond to anonymous posters.

Lesa said...

I have been remiss in commenting here. I apologize.

I just want to go on record thanking CGal and Loretta for having the gumption to put up an "idiot free blog" for the Brown trial.

Nice work my friends.

Now, where is that *D* jury?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry elizabeth, I should have written that Patty wasn't there for Geragos's closing statement. Some peoples conjecture was that she didn't want to face the media, get her picture taken etc. But my theory is that she felt she could better serve her husband by staying home with her candles, working with the powers of darkness to "save" her husband. who knows? they are sick and twisted people. Even Cameron John Brown's own mother basically testified that her son was basically an idiot.

rhonda j. said...

Your continued prayers for Sarah and her family are much appreciated. She seems to be holding up well (she's such a strong, spiritual and loving woman) but I know this waiting is taking it's toll on her. I don't understand why it's taking so long!

Nadine said...

My positive thoughts are with Sarah and Lauren.

May there be justice.

CountryGirl said...

Light your candles right now please! The jury is hung and Judge Arnold sent them back to continue to deliberate.

More info as I get it.

New entry about hung jury

rhonda j. said...

It's only the Lord's justice that matters and if it doesn't happen here it will happen elsewhere. ALL will be held accountable for their actions.

The bible says:
"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." Hebrews 4:13

May we all have peace in the verdict!

Anonymous said...

Nevermind Loretta, I used to be a reader of the misfitting blog but it doesn't work so I report it, I assumed it can help, if not forget my post... and I prefer to remain anonymous online for my own personal reasons and because it is my freedom of speech and choice, it seems that we are losing that more and more on the internet and everywhere else these days.