Te whetu Orongo

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

– Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President

Honest Abe’s advice transcends time and space when a courageous judge recently eviscerated the stated facts as presented, and arrived at the core of the truth based on witness statements.

Not only did he methodically sieve the evidence to find the truth, but he blew off the chaff of lies and laid bare the real story that was furtively concealed under a pile of lies and falsehoods.

The defence claimed that this judge had made honest mistakes although he tried the case honestly. The judge also faced the indignity of being a blood relation of one of the parties dedicated to seeing a thief go to prison.

The line between law, justice and the truth is defined by an accepted lie honed and developed through experience and experiment, not logic.

There are many varieties of lies. One that offers some relief to a warped mind goes something like this: “I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me.” Then there’s the twist offered by Nietzsche: “I am not upset that you lied to me. I am upset that from now I cannot believe you.”

In America, you are offered the Fifth Amendment constitutional right to remain silent as anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law unless you have a lawyer present during interrogations to prevent incriminating yourself.

When the truth is concealed because of silence, that wilful act of concealment is in itself a lie.

Some lies are so blatant, so black that even a white lie cannot save you as we witnessed recently in the unravelling of one of the biggest money-laundering cases accompanied by the obvious abuse of power where 76 witnesses offered their versions of the truth based on questions posed by both prosecution and witness.

Woe betide if an appropriate question, or an earth-shattering one is not asked. Sometimes the wrong questions could kill off a case because of that “reasonable doubt” standard.

The “law” as we are accustomed to through real court dramas and those seen on television and the cinema is a very mercurial feature of civilisation where lies take on a new façade, a new dimension, and a new meaning.

Take the 19th century old case of the railway lantern-man who swore in court that he did wave his lantern to warn the oncoming train of danger.

Unfortunately, the train derailed resulting in several deaths.

Twenty years on, the lantern-man ran into the lawyer who represented a deceased passenger on that ill-fated train. The lawyer and the lantern-man recognised one another and they began exchanging pleasantries. Out of remorse and a contrite heart, the lantern-man told the lawyer why he never asked him whether the lantern was lit!

The art of lying and concealing has other manifestations. There is the American case where the jury summations were being concluded. The defence was looking rock-solid, airtight, soundproof, bulletproof and watertight.

The defence attorney got up and claimed that the body of the victim was never found, therefore casting serious doubt whether she was indeed dead, and that the accused — the missing woman’s husband — should be exonerated.

No body, no murder weapon if indeed she was murdered, no nothing for the prosecution to hang its hat on. The defence attorney felt a sudden gush of professional pride and uttered, ”ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we don’t know if the poor woman is dead or alive; why, she could be walking into this courtroom right now through that door, and . . . ”

All the jurors turned their heads to watch the door except the defendant’s husband. He knew she was never coming back.

The observant judge noticed that the accused never once turned his head to watch the door. The ecstatic defence lawyer proved his case as more than beyond reasonable doubt as every juror had turned to look at the door. That action of the jurors, and the inaction of the accused husband sealed the fate of the “law.”

Many are quizzing why bail was allowed to a recently convicted felon who could be a flight risk given the fact that one convicted murderer found his way from a prison to the safety of non-extraditable Australia. Bizarre twists and turns are to expected in the thickets and brambles of the law.

“The law may be an ass, but it need not be asinine,” quipped Lord Denning, borrowing a line from George Chapman’s ‘Revenge for Honour’ published in 1654 which Charles Dickens later borrowed for his Oliver Twist.

The public is safe as long as the law does not end up like a scarecrow being cawed at by dozens of crows perched on its outstretched arms.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.