Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More Honesty When You (Don't) Need It

It’s the simple, rarely varied ‘adopt-your-statement’ question. Counsel asks, ‘Did you make this statement?’ Witness says a ‘yes’, then the other side gets a go at the witness’ jugular, while pretending to cross-examine.
Counsel rarely screams the ‘80s movie’s ‘Objection My Lord!’ anymore as the witness’ statement on oath is filed along with other originating process. In practice, the statement is usually drafted by the lawyer (who was taught to put facts ‘favourably’ at Law School), though the crux of the statement is the witness’. Most witnesses sign the prepared statement without reading it and forget about it, some ummh and aahh over every word just in case the lawyer is a conspiracy theorist, few scan-read and sign. Today’s witness is a ‘most’.
The matter is for trial for the first time after four years of pre-trial, extensions and transfer from judge to judge. The Defendant had served an interlocutory application on us a few weeks ago. Ghandi suspects it’s another attempt to stall the trial but comes to court anyway with the client (and sole witness). We are not prepared for trial and we are surprised when the Defendant withdraws his pending interlocutory application and the Court decides to proceed to trial
Ghandi tries to ask for an adjournment but her Ladyship is ‘not inclined to’ and orders that our witness be sworn in and adopt his statement.
Proficient Ghandi begins, ‘Did you make this statement?’
Surprise -
Witness looks at the first page, then, ‘No.’
Ghandi pretends not to hear the ‘no’; Defendant’s Counsel is chuckling and I’m trying all the body language I know without throwing a stone at his head.
Ghandi tries again- ‘Mr, [Witness], you will remember you made a statement at our office…’
Counsel to the Defendant jumps off, emphasising that the witness had already answered the question; Ghandi interjects, explaining that the witness is not prepared, etc, while I develop a headache. They squabble for a few minutes before the judge magnanimously adjourns.

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