The True Meaning of Honesty
Analysis of honesty in the context of the Criminal Justice process in England and the USA.
Honesty is the most essential quality in a professional man or woman. It is the denouncing of trivia and filibustering and time wasting in Court and otherwise. It concentrates the minds of those called to a role in the administration of justice. There can be no second guessing. Honest evidence and honest judgement are final once the testimony is given and the Judgement is arrived at. The Judge has no axe to grind – he or she is impartial to the extreme in his Judicial role.
There can be no true honesty without sacrifice. You have to be prepared to incur the wrath of others be you Judge, Advocate or Witness. If you lack this sacrificial calibre your testimony will be valueless and your Judicial career will be pedestrian. You should not court controversy but you must rise to the challenge. Common sense is the watchword for the English Judge and Advocate.
The truth of testimony is built on the non-self-serving statements i.e. against his own interest. The Defendant used to have no right to give evidence in his own defence in the 19th Century and that rule was based on the belief the accused’s exculpation of himself carried no weight. Thus the modern self-serving statements pre-trial of that accused does not carry the power of a non-defendant witness giving an account. The so called incriminating admissions are a far greater force before the Court.
It is difficult to say something against oneself in any circumstances as we all know – to admit we have done something wrong in our adult lives is courageous. Let others see and speak the better side of us. This is life’s true passage – admission then allowing others to pass their views upon it.
The question of making a statement or concession contrary to one’s case in Court by the Advocate is well known and established. It is this even-handedness which makes a good Advocate and elicits the praise of the Presiding Judge spoken and unspoken.
There must have been times on the Continent in the 1930’s and 1940’s when persons feared for their liberty and lives. It would be folly to speak out and quite understandable to remain inaudible and silent e.g. Nazi Germany. (That is not all the story but part of it so far as that country was concerned.)
I am particularly concerned with England and Wales and the USA where trial by Jury prevails within the adversarial process. If we object to these two features then we should work to abolish them. I may not support them but I respect the status quo particularly the adversarial process and its acceptance by the Judges and the lawyers not to mention Parliament. What matters to me is the currency of these two aspects of criminal justice transatlantic. The prosecution disclose their evidence and investigative bundles – the Defence reveal their case in England and Wales. The matter does not end there. People will never become robots and clinically correct thank God. Clearly no case may come to Court of Murder without thorough investigation and heavy weight of material evidence against the accused. The notion has got around that this investigation may be faulty, and in the USA this belief is being used to overturn death sentences and murder convictions – less so in England, but the same assault on Justice is made in our country sometimes based on old cases. I do not defend wrongful murder convictions, but may we properly delineate such cases and other cases being kept out of Court on the specious grounds of timidity, i.e. fear of those who seek to overturn convictions for murder and discredit the Crown at trial and post-trial. In the USA this psychology is intensified by the Death Sentence in several States, making the stakes very high thereby requiring stronger resolve than ever in her US State Attorneys. Anything for an easy life is a motto that could be unfairly applied to prosecutors of murderers each side of the Atlantic. Where gangsters are involved who seek to undermine criminal justice even their own legal representatives may be intimidated and find the true fairness difficult to attain. We had the Krays in our Old Bailey on murder counts.
The Court will always give the Defence a fair hearing and ensure the prosecution do so. Will the Defence give the Court and prosecution witnesses a proper hearing? I am afraid Defendants in murder cases on either side of the Atlantic are known to be unreliable, dishonest and scheming. For them they want their liberty sooner or later as their Defence team and supporters well know. Another Cause Celebre is their desired objective. On the contrary, Criminal law should be methodical and out of the limelight. Criminal decision making in murder cases should be objective and grounded in good analysis and deduction away from controversy. The Defence teams should not be contaminated by these very serious offenders.
Any attempt to overturn a murder conviction is fraught with controversy. In the USA it is well known the DNA results in murder cases are re-examined post-conviction by Defence teams to support appeals. The raison d’être of these re-examinations is to support these appeals and delay or prevent the execution in any event by a successful appeal. I do not like to accuse without evidence, but I have grave doubts about some of these Defence post-murder conviction scientific evidence reappraisals. Why? Because however hard these Defence teams try they do not start with an unbiased view. It takes years of formation from an early point in a person’s life, and later practise of honesty to achieve the ability to make statements and findings contrary to the Defence team’s objectives if you have been brought into that team to support their case. Not many can properly perform this job. I speak of murder cases alone. I emphasise I suspect this quality of sincerity and honesty is not invariably found in the trans- Atlantic Criminal Justice process in these persons and experts recruited by the Defence. It would be asking too much to think otherwise.