By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides in relevant part, “(No person)… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”
It’s really an amazing right when you think about it. In America, not only do we have the right to be free of having to “explain yourself” when accused of a crime — taken a step further — you have the right to deny guilt to your grave if you so choose. Your government can never force you to say you’re guilty regardless of how long they imprison or threaten imprisonment of any person.
The Fifth Amendment in many ways is what separates us from countries with backward senses of justice.
I try to explain this to jurors very simply. In America, we focus on the evidence from the accusers. In other countries, they ask loaded questions and then look the accused’s face to confirm the pre-existing belief the person is guilty — a practice consistent with judging witches.
Jurors quickly realize it’s impossible for 3, 4, 6 much less 12 people to agree on the truthfullness of someone accused trying to tell their side of the story.
Some see “crocodile tears” as an act, and others see them as sincere expressions.
Some jurors see confident testimony as rehearsed, while others may see it as convincing.
Some jurors may see someone who shouts his innocence as lying and others may view it as truthful.
Science tells us that not only are polygraphs not even scientifically reliable enough to be admissible in court — and humans are even worse at distinguishing lies from the truth.
The framers of the Constitution knew even back then — this method of accusation was a game. And an unfair one at that.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about this or any other legal topic you should consult an attorney directly. Communications through this forum are not confidential nor privileged.