Pecularities of Witnesses.
One would naturally think it to he the easiest thing in the world, on entering the witness box of a Court of justice, for a witness to give his or her narrative of what they saw and heard succinctly and briefly. Yet it is one of the most difficult things imaginable, and even policemen fail occasionally to come up to those requirements. Then the manner of giving evidence differs according to the idiosyncracy of the witness. We ha ,r o the cautious witness, who always “ remembers he is on his oath,” and depones “ to the best of his belief and knowledge.” Then there is the secretive witness, out of whom nothing is to be got save with a
corkscrew or Ivy hydraulic pressure ; he is well matched hy the garrulous witness, who depones over much, and whose evidence is particularly annoying to both bench and bar from the trouble involved in sifting the legendary from the canonical; and finally we have the confidential witness, gushing and familiar, who informs the bench, in an undertone, “that she has never been in a court of justicejnefore, is the mother of ten children, and in her evidence treats the audience behind the bar as one of the family, and alternately unbosoms herself of her experiences to the bum-bailiff standing beside the witness box and the magistrate on the bench. But it is when the accused is permitted to cross-examine a witness that the real trouble commences. It is difficult enough for a witness to give evidence properly, but it is far more so for a layman to extract in cross-examination just the essential facts and no more, which i;e desires to elicit from a witness. This is the usual style of thing to be heard any day in a police court : —Magistrate : “ You can ask the witness any questions you desire before he stands down.” Accused: “ When I says to him, says I ” Magistrate : “You must ask the witness a question.” Accused : “ Well, lam after asking a question, your honor. When he says to me, says he ” Magistrate : “That is not a question!” Accused: All right your Honor. Well, as I was saying, when I says to him, says I ” Magistrate : “ I can’t permit this sort of thing to go on. ” According!}', the crossexaminer subsides into a state of pulp with vexation and nervousness, and wishes, like the Lunatic in Han well, that “ he was a teapot, and someone to pour him out! ”
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Pecularities of Witnesses., Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 36, 18 December 1879
Pecularities of Witnesses. Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 36, 18 December 1879
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