Getting at the “truth” of a case: one lawyer’s POV

“I think we may say we have made some progress,” said Parker.

“If only negatively,” added Peter.

“Exactly,” said Sir Impey turning on him with staggering abruptness. “Very negatively indeed. And, having seriously hampered the case for the defense, what are you going to do next?”

“That’s a nice thing to say,” cried Peter indignantly, “when we’ve cleared up such a lot of points for you!”

“I daresay,” said the barrister, “but they’re the sort of points which are much better left muffled up.”

“Damn it all, we want to get at the truth!”

“Do you!” said Sir Impey drily. “I don’t. I don’t care twopence about the truth. I want a case. It doesn’t matter to me who killed Cathcart, provided I can prove it wasn’t Denver. It’s really enough if I can throw reasonable doubt on its being Denver. Here’s a client comes to me with a story of a quarrel, a suspicious revolver, a refusal to produce evidence of his statements, and a totally inadequate and idiotic alibi. I arrange to obfuscate the jury with mysterious footprints, a discrepancy as to the time, a young woman with a secret, and a general vague suggestion of something between a burglary and a crime passionel. And here you come explaining the footprints, exculpating the unknown man, abolishing the discrepancies, clearing up the motives of the young woman, and most carefully throwing back suspicion to where it rested in the first place. What do you expect?”

“I’ve always said,” growled Peter, “that the professional advocate was the most immoral fellow on the face of the earth, and now I know for certain.”

— From Clouds of Witness, by Dorothy Sayers

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