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Episode 9: Testimony

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Albert Desalvo said he committed all the Strangler murders, but he would never be tried for those crimes. Instead, he would stand trial for his crimes as the Green Man. DeSalvo’s wily lawyer, F. Lee Bailey, used DeSalvo’s violent history and his reputation as the Boston Strangler to assert that his client was not guilty by reason of legal insanity. In this episode, we’ll follow the prosecution and defense as they attempt to sway the jury, and we'll hear chilling trial excerpts. We’ll also learn how one popular '50s television sitcom may have given Albert DeSalvo the rationale he needed to invade the homes of hundreds—perhaps thousands—of women.

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Jane Caputi's assertion that testify and testicles share an etymological root is true; however, her conclusion that testify is therefore directly associated with male anatomy is exactly backwards. Testis, the shared root in testify and testicles, means "witness." In the case of testify, the connection is quite literal: when one testifies, one bears witness (i.e., gives an account of something that they literally saw). In the case of testicles (meaning "little witnesses"), "witness" is meant figuratively (interpreted variously and inconclusively). So, it is only accurate to say that testify and testicle are both derived from the notion of bearing witness.


Caputi's suggestion that the act of testifying is somehow gender biased due to etymological happenstance is as absurd as stating that eating clam chowder is inherently misogynistic because clam has been figuratively associated with female genitalia in a derogatory sense. Caputi would be better served to advance her arguments without (ironically) bearing false witness by using deceptive etymological claims as red herrings.

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