Anatomy of A Murder - Legal Aspects

Legal Aspects

The film examines the apparent fallibility of the human factor in jurisprudence. In various ways all of the human components – the counsels for defense and prosecution, the defendant and his wife, and the witnesses – have different positions on what is right or wrong, and varying perspectives on integrity, justice, morality and ethics.

It is to be noted that the reliance on credibility of witnesses, and the "finding of facts" based upon those determinations, is the 'Achilles heel' of the judicial process.

One controversial legal issue in this film is possible witness coaching, a violation of legal canons. The only plausible legal defense Lt. Manion has – the insanity defense – is virtually spelled out to a befuddled Manion by his prospective counsel, who then temporarily suspends the conversation and suggests that Manion rethink his factual/legal position. Witness coaching by the prosecution is even more blatant as they call in other jail inmates awaiting sentencing to testify against Manion, and is portrayed as subornation of perjury to an extent. The first suggests that the defendant may be concealing the truth and manipulating his story in order to obtain the best possible verdict, and the latter that the prosecution dangled a possible lighter sentence through plea bargain as an incentive to perjury.

Thus, there could be a synergy: compounding the inherent fallible nature of the process with the malleability of memory, the potential mendacity of witnesses, the showmanship and 'magic tricks' involved in trials and advocacy, and the self-interest, venality, morality, poor perception and recollection, and ethical standards of the participants. Indeed, the unreliability of judicial decisions based on demeanor is well established.

In protracted litigation, confabulated memory – filling in the blanks and recreating memories – is common, and research has documented the tendency. Repetitive and suggestive questioning tends to plant the seeds of memory. The book and the film are among the most cogent examples of the lawyers' dance. "Horse shedding" of witnesses is well known, if controversial and potentially unethical; it is not just an occasion to directly orchestrate perjury. What is more problematic is that it is possible to reach a point where “if you believe it, then it isn’t a lie.” Thus, even letter-perfect bona fide certainty of belief is not equivalent to a certification of accuracy or even truthfulness. This process is called "horse shedding," "sandpapering" or "wood shedding" – the first and last names being metaphorical references to the location of such a "collaboration."

Read more about this topic:  Anatomy Of A Murder

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