How would we feel if we went to court only to discover that the judge was having a bad day? She was finding every man guilty, regardless of his offense, just because she was going through a nasty divorce. On top of that, she was fining them the highest fine allowed in each circumstance.
In the court down the hall, a judge believed that everyone who showed up in his court had to be guilty of something, so why quibble over what? He simply cut to the chase and set the fine at a nice standard fifty-five dollars for the “little things” and a hundred ten dollars for the bigger things, keeping in mind that he could still fine those who deserved an even bigger fine up to five hundred dollars if he so desired.
And even those unfortunate creatures who had to pay for the “privilege” of getting out of court “that easy,” even if they weren’t guilty, didn’t know what was going on over in booking. A man was brought in in handcuffs because he happened to look like the man described in the APB. Normally, that’s something that would be no big deal, and as soon as the man answered certain questions he’d be set free, but this day, the man who was standing there in handcuffs had put up resistance because of what happened to his brother just months ago. The officer at the scene took it as a sign of his guilt and roughed him up before bringing him in, having been taught to not let suspects get the best of him.
There are a thousand ways to let your feelings get the best of you, from having a bad day, to having a bad attitude, to making bad decisions — regardless of the reason — to expressing your power just because you can, to doing what you normally wouldn’t do just because someone told you to and you are hoping for some brownie points by following that advice.
Everyone who has been in such a situation knows how it feels to be at the mercy of someone else’s feelings or attitude. Not only does it not feel good, the outcome usually does not lead to justice.
When I was young, my father always demanded the truth. Nothing wrong with that, except when my father didn’t like the truth I told him and demanded a different one. In essence then, he was asking me to lie and I might have to work at a lie he would finally believe. Then I was punished for telling the truth, but told, “See how much better it is when you tell the truth!” (Meaning, in this case, when you tell the right lie.)
I can understand that many people will tell the story that will be best for their situation, even if it is a blatant lie. Police and judges probably hear those lies so often that they get to where they just assume everyone is lying. Wouldn’t it be something if they just assumed everyone was telling the truth? Without really knowing, I can imagine that more people would lie to save their skin than to tell the truth if they knew that truth would get them a great big fine or even jail time.
Of course there are such things as lie detectors, but they are not always accurate and not even always administered properly. Innocent people may get caught in a “lie trap,” and a guilty person may slip through scot-free. And then there is the fact that they are not always allowed in to support testimony one way or the other.
But could there be such a thing as a “truth detector” — as opposed to a lie detector? Imagine all the time and money that could be saved on those long, expensive trials that sometimes do not even bring out the truth, still resulting in injustice because of some untruth that the prosecuting attorneys packaged up all nice and pretty for the jury members to hear and believe, leading to hard time for an innocent person, or even loss of their life.
I believe that sometime in the future most humans will be able to see truth on each other’s faces just as some people can read that on faces now. It is a skill and can be learned, but as we well know, unfortunately, so can deceit be learned.
My father couldn’t always tell the difference, and quite frankly, I don’t think any of us are ready yet to put our fate in the hands of a face-reader to assess our guilt or innocence.
It’s still always sad to see a trial — or even a hearing — end up with the wrong conclusion based on what we see as obvious evidence to the contrary. Yet hopefully, in this almost-free land of ours, we can try to prove our point again and again and get someone to believe us and get us before a judge who is not in the middle of a divorce or some other dispute and is not having a bad day and is not automatically antagonistic toward women, men, gays, transgenders, blacks, Spanish-speaking immigrants, or anyone who is not mainstream in the eyes and mind of the judge.
We can hope for that, but in the meantime, we must learn how not to get caught up in our own situations because of our own feelings or attitudes or beliefs and so on. We need to remember that while we may have a perfectly good explanation for what we did or said, so does the person on the other side.
Innocent or guilty? Unfortunately, in a court, it’s not the truth that counts; it’s what the judge or jury believes.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.