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The Reasons We Lie: Part 2

Too much to cover in one blog post, I've created a continuation of the list of lies in investigations I found unique or interesting.

Photo by RODNAE Productions | Pexels

As I continue to write about the role that lies have in investigations a new idea has emerged. Sometimes people don’t know they are lying because they have been manipulated to such a degree that they think they are telling the truth. Sometimes people don’t realize they’re lying because they’ve convinced themselves of an alternate reality. It must be terrible to suddenly realize you were wrong, especially if a lie you told caused someone else harm.

How responsible are we for the lies we don’t realize we’re telling?

Leah and Mariah Day: Pursuing Justice

The murder of Betsy Faria is a hard case to process. Pam Hupp, one of Betsy’s closest friends, murdered her and framed Russ Faria, her husband. Pam’s lies were clearly for personal gain, but I don’t think they are the most interesting lies that came from the trial.

Betsy’s daughters, Leah and Mariah, were distraught after their mother’s death. At 17 and 21-years-old, they struggled to process what could have possibly happened. When the police and prosecutors told them that there was only one possible suspect, their stepfather Russ Faria, they believed them. They believed the police and, we’ll never know to what extent, they shaped their memories to fit that narrative, playing a significant role in Faria’s wrongful conviction.

I just heard Russ Faria speak a few weeks ago, and he confirmed that he still hasn’t spoken to Betsy’s daughters since his first trial. I would guess that he understands why they lied and likely blames the District Attorney’s office more than Leah and Mariah. But even with an understanding of how it happened, their actions would be hard for anyone to forgive.

Frédéric Bourdin: Survival

It’s impossible not to mention serial liars in this discussion, and Frederic Bourdin is one of the most interesting ones I’ve come across.

I first learned about him when someone recommended the documentary, The Imposter. It's the story of how Bourdin impersonated Nicholas Barclay, a teenage boy who had been missing for three years. Despite being 23-years-old when Barclay would have been 16-years-old and having brown eyes when Nicholas had blue, he convinced the family he was their missing son.

The story is too wild for me to even summarize, so I recommend that you watch the documentary. But for our purposes, consider how individuals who lie compulsively as a means of survival can cause issues in a police investigation. Why would they suspect that someone would lie about being a missing child? And what can they do to unravel stories told by skilled liars? For example, Bourdin knew that they would treat him gently if he claimed that he had been sexually abused. He knew that they wouldn’t force him to speak if he exhibited signs of trauma. It’s a lot for investigators, families, and the public to unravel.

Everyday Liars

I attended a session about detecting lies (primarily in conversation) at CrimeCon, and the presenter recommended that we do not take what we learned that day and immediately apply it at home. Why not?

We tell little lies every day–to ourselves and others. We lie without realizing it when our memory fails us. We lie to spare feelings or avoid a fight. The only people who make me truly nervous are the ones who say they never lie. That tells me at least one of three things: they have no self-awareness, they think I’m an idiot, or they’re trying to hide something very specific.

I was listening to a journalist speak to another journalist about an investigation she was beginning. He said something like, “Just remember that everyone involved in this case has a reason to lie to you.” My gut reaction, in part, because I didn’t care for his condescending tone, was to think, “That includes you.” This journalist had made a name for himself investigating the case and made some mistakes along the way. It struck me that even people who caution us to watch out for the lies other people are telling may sometimes be lying.

Resources for Citizen Investigators & Internet Sleuths

Head back to school… or at least to a master class. The resource I’m recommending is Susan Constantine’s How to Spot a Liar in 7 Seconds or Less. This is geared toward practice, of course, but who among us couldn’t benefit from being able to see a lie a little more easily? If the human tendency to lie interests you, I think you’ll enjoy the content.

Remember: All of these types of lies are shared with you through my lens. What did I miss, and where do you disagree? Let me know in the comments!

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