Wednesday, December 02, 2015


Why is it that criminal trials are often the least likely place one can expect to find unembellished truth? Walk into any courtroom and you'll hear the judge harangue defense lawyers, prosecutors and witnesses with long lists of which bits of evidence, facts and circumstances are proper to present. Much of this happens outside the hearing of those lost-looking jurors, though as the trial progresses they become all too aware of what is obvious to everyone else in the courtroom - they're not really hearing all the evidence.
painting of sleeping jury in Clearwater, Florida courtroom
Pinellas County Jury searches for Truth

Clearly it's laudable that any good judge aims to give the defendant a fair trial, while other judges seem to not so much want a fair trial for the defendant a fair playing field where the prosecution always wins. Either way a judge will cloak most evidentiary decisions with language that's based on keeping out possible prejudicial information that might inflame those innocent jurors. The quest for fairness may entail not letting defense counsel ask worrisome questions about prior police misconduct or a judge could prevent prosecutors from bringing up a defendant's prior criminal history at least until the defendant takes the stand to testify in his own defense.

But as the judge parses thru layers of testimony and evidence - allowing this, denying that - those familiar with the actual facts of a case will find that the facts presented to the jury are oddly different than what really happened. How it happens may be a mystery but it always does. The mysterious result is damaging not only to the integrity of those involved, but also to the ends of justice itself. 

In criminal cases there's always a detective or police officer who testifies. These witnesses see that the actual facts become distorted until over time their sense of absolute truth and vital honesty erodes. Unfortunately all of those tied to the criminal justice system especially judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors suffer from observing the constant failure of truth. In fact, I even fear for the bailiffs who day after day hear multiple versions of facts - all but the truth - like courtroom clocks giving false time.

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