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Witness for the Prosecution
By Lewis O. Unglesby
What is a Lawyer’s Role When a Client Becomes a Rat?“The prisoner could never be a real witness. It is not
human nature to speak the truth under such pressure, as would be brought
to bear on the prisoner, and it is not a light thing to institute a
system which could almost enforce perjury on every occasion. It is a
mockery to swear a man to speak the truth when he is certain to
disregard it.” Steven, A General View of the Criminal Law of England
(1863, pp. 201-202).
Historically, the judiciary recognized the
fundamental fallacy in relying on the accused for truthful testimony.
That judicial philosophy accepted the idea that self-preservation is so
instinctive that it outweighs all other considerations.
Today, previously accused criminals have become
accepted as key witnesses, protected and rewarded by law for their
stories. The role the criminal defense attorney plays in this process
raises serious questions of ethics and fairness. The concept of mercy
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