Inspiration for Fly Away: The Metamorphosis of Dina Savage


Back in 2001, I received a jury summons to appear at the Cobb County Superior Court. I ended up serving on a date rape case, a classic he said/she said scenario. Without going into the details, I’ll say that it was an eye-opening experience. Previously, I’d assumed that any prosecutor who brought a matter like this to trial must have had a solid case and that the accused had to be guilty of at least something.

The defendant turned out to be a singularly unsympathetic person. I doubt anyone on the jury actually liked him. But I had promised, under oath, that I would carefully consider the evidence before rendering a verdict.

Over the next three days, we heard testimony from prosecution witnesses, most of which had nothing to do with the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Feeling that he had a weak case, the DA clearly intended to prejudice the jury. When he put the alleged victim on the stand, she made statements that contradicted the physical evidence. On the third day, the defendant shocked the jurors by pleading guilty to lesser charges.

This led me to the same conclusion as Jeff Sax in Fly Away, that we could have ended up sending an innocent man to prison or putting a monster back on the street. Though the characters in Fly Away bear no relationship to those I saw in the courtroom, I borrowed liberally from what I recalled of the testimony.

Years later, as I watched Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, I thought back to that trial and realized that all our attempts to determine who’s telling the truth and who’s lying are to no avail. Which side we choose to believe says more about us than about the person who’s testifying.

Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. What if neither of them were telling the truth? What if they both were? Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable under the best of circumstances. These were not the best of circumstances. Under such conditions, our minds construct stories to explain what we don’t understand or don’t want to remember.

It’s always simpler, in a case like this, to believe one side and distrust the other. Such certainty allows us the comfort of choosing our own explanation. In the cynical view of Colleen Williams, Esquire, “At the day, neither side really cares about the truth. They each present their own version. The jury selects one and goes home confident that they’ve done their civic duty.”