March 14, 2002

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if you were on trial? After sitting through a recent court hearing I had to ask myself which person was on trial. In this particular case two witnesses were called by the prosecution. That's right, all they had done was see an alleged crime committed. They had done the right thing. One simply did his job and issued tickets for the alleged offenses. The other, a common citizen, came forward to file the complaint in the incident.

Before the morning was over, both were ran through the wringer by the defense attorney. They had their words turned in circle after circle, were bossed around and basically treated very rudely. I realize that is the defense attorney's job, to give his client his money's worth, yet it still leaves a foul taste in your mouth. No wonder no one comes forward anymore to do the right thing. It's a heck of a lot easier to hide in the background and pretend you didn't see the crime committed.

When you do step up to the call of public service, you simply toss yourself on the hot seat. First you have to worry about the defendant trying to seek some form of retribution for your actions. Then you have to set there and listen to the defense try to make you out as a liar or worse. In this case, the two witnesses went through much more grief than the defendant ever did and they had committed no crimes. Ultimately you have to wonder was it all worth it as the defendant walks away on some technicality or a plea agreement or some other court deal that ends with a slap on the wrist.

I understand we must protect the rights of the accused, who are presumed innocent until proven guilty. That means we must use every method available to try to prove their innocence. I guess that entails calling witnesses liars, badgering them with oddly worded questions hoping for a misspoken word, or even letting a criminal go because a t wasn't crossed or an i wasn't dotted on some obscure form.

Fortunately for this world there are still some people out there who can see through all of this junk, and who simply can and will continue to do the right thing when called upon. When that stops, those of us who believe in law and order better start looking for a new place to live.

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