The Courtroom Trial_Search for the Truth, or Preordained Drama?

I am puzzled about the function of a trial, in the American justice system. It is supposed to be a “search for the truth”, but as I see it, it is more like a 3-act play.
Consider this: under the rules of discovery, both sides are supposed to have the same information. Under the rules of cross-examination, every lawyer only asks questions (to which he already knows the answer).
Isn’t a court trial actually a play, where you have an opening, a conflict and a denouemont(spelling possibly wrong, theatre experts)!
The main function of the cross examination (of witnesses) is to plant doubt in the minds of the jury-actual scientific facts seem to have little relevance.
So, are trials usually cut and dried, or do you occasionally see a Perry Mason type surprise in the courtroom?:confused:

My dad is an attorney and he despises courtroom dramas on TV or in movies. To hear him tell it Perry Mason style confessions almost never happen (I suppose there might have been one or two exceptions over all litigation history but it is still unlikely in the extreme).

Nevertheless there can be room for some drama. The opposing sides case isn’t know with 100% certitude and attorneys certainly try to surprise theri opponent if given the chance. Since attorneys prepare by trying to guess what the other side will likely throw at them anything one side can do to surprise the other will probably net the best results. I don’t think it is easy though so I wouldn’t expect too much of it.

I’ve sat in on a few cases over the years (watch my dad, for a class…that sort of thing) and on the whole court room proceedings seemed downright boring to me…nowhere near as interesting as watching The Practice. :wink:

Let me tell you. You always get surprises in trials. Some times they are good suprises, sometimes they are bad suprises. Perry Mason suprises are as rare as hens teeth.

To characterize a trial as a search for the truth is not entirely fair. It is an exercise in persuasion–to persuade a jury or a judge to accept as true a factual scenario demonstrated by the evidence. The fact that the demonstration proceeds by a series of rules in no way detracts from the tensions and drama. It is like the Super Bowl- you knew it was going to go on for four 15 minute quarters, you knew that the teams had to advance the ball 10 yards in four consecutive tries, you knew that field goal tries from inside the 20-yard line were pretty much a sure three points. You knew the rules of the game and the strength and weaknesses of the two sides, but you didn’t know how the game was going to come out. Trials are like that.

… and just to add to what’s already been said, I don’t see the connection in these two statements you made. From my experience, actual scientific facts are highly relevant and highly important. I’m not sure what you meant in connecting these two thoughts?

In an idealized world, the trial really is a search for the truth. Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world. In the real world we live in (and some of us practice law in), trial advocacy is an exercise in persuasion (to borrow from Spavined) that, hopefully, results in the truth being disclosed most of the time. The function of the jury, or the court in a bench trial, is to try and determine the truth, however. Perhaps one other important point in this regard is that old adage (or maybe it isn’t really an old adage but some twisted compilation of a couple of adages in my foggy memory): Truth is in the eye of the beholder. :slight_smile:

Not true at all. Only certain kinds of evidence must be turned over. I don’t think the Defense need give anything to the prosecution.

…what I meant was this: take the case of the silicone breast implants. Huge awards were made to women who supposedly suffered from the effects of their boobie implants. This decision was made by juries, despite the fact that there was:
(a) no scientific proof that their illnesses were in fact caused by the foreign substance WHICH THEY CONSENTED TO IMPLANTING in their bodies.
(b) no statistical evidence of any difference in symptoms between women who had silicone implants vs those who didn’t
© considerable evidence that many of their symptoms were in fact psychosomatic
Thay is why I characterized the silicone breast implants trials as exercises in hysteria rather than fact-finding.

Assuming we’re talking about criminal law, this statement is not true; it’s very dependent on the jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have strong reciprocal discovery rules, while others do not.

For example, in Virginia, the Commonwealth may require that you reveal if you’re going to use an alibi defense in court, and if you are, that you disclose the place at which you claim to have been at the time of the commission of the alleged offense. If you’re going to rely upon a diminished capacity or insanity defense, you have to provide the prosecution with any written reports of physical or mental examinations – although the Comonwealth can’t use that evidence in its case-in-chief.

  • Rick

Ah, I seem to be wrong.

It is supposed to be a "search for the truth"

  1. The prosecution thinks you did it and presents evidence to show why they think this.
  2. The defense gives evidence to the contrary and rebuts the prosecution’s evidence.
  3. The prosecution rebuts the defense’s evidence
  4. The jury deliberates (whatever that entails)
  5. The jury renders a verdict.

I don’t think any of the participants look for truth; they search for facts in their favor and untruths. After all they are not scientist conducting an experiment. They are lawers out to win and juriors just wanting out.