Evidence and Proof Essay

  • ‘When I try cases, I do all the logic games they suggest, but as far as knowing the truth, for myself, it isn’t usually logic that points the way. It’s how I feel about the witnesses, how they testify, how they hold their heads, how they look and sound. You can call it intuition, I suppose, but it surely isn’t logic, or at least not logic alone.’

Cathy quoted by Louise Harmon, Etchings on Glass: Reflections on the Science of Proof, (1999) 40 S. Tex. L. Rev. 483 at p.503

  • On 14th May 2011, a hotel chambermaid in New York complained of having been raped by a hotel guest. The guest, a prominent French politician, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was subsequently arrested and charged with sexual assault. On 1st July 2011, the New York District Attorney (‘DA’) announced that his office was committed “to the truth and to the facts” (BBC News). On 23rd August 2011, the DA dropped the charges and a judge dismissed the case. According to the BBC, prosecutors cited doubts over the credibility of the complainant –

“Our inability to believe the complainant beyond a reasonable doubt means, in good faith, that we could not ask a jury to do that,” Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon told Judge Michael Obus.

Amongst the ‘credibility factors’ identified by the DA’s office were:

  • She had given inconsistent versions of the events immediately after the assault;
  • She gave the DA’s investigators a false but detailed and convincing account of being raped in her native country, Guinea, prior to being allowed into the USA; and
  • She had made false statements on her US tax returns
  • Do you consider that Cathy’s way of ascertaining the truth uses the same sort of factors as the lawyers in the District Attorney’s office used to reach their decision?
  • The chambermaid also made a claim in the civil courts for compensation, against Strauss-Khan. Do you consider the existence of that claim to be relevant to an assessment of her credibility as a witness in a criminal trial for sexual assault?

Give reasons for your answers.

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