Thursday, March 13, 2014

Criminal Trials Are Not About Discovering the Truth

Surprised?  In my novel, A QUESTION OF PROOF, the trial is to determine whether Susan Boelter killed her husband Peter Boelter, a cynical, callous, charming newspaper publisher. I tried to show the reader that a trial is really a contest between opposing attorneys to present a more plausible version of the facts to the jury. The actual truth, however, proves to be very slippery indeed.

As Dan Lazar, Susan's lover and lawyer, explains it:

"Susan, try to understand. A trial isn't about truth, it's about winning. It's a contest to sway a jury, those twelve people. Everybody says they're after the truth, but they're really after something that will sound true—that will be plausible, whether for yea or nay—to those twelve people. But the actual truth is coincidental. By the end of a trial, if the lawyers on both sides have done a good job, the truth is battered beyond recognition or so disguised in new clothes that no one can really be sure what it is anymore."


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