Skip to main content

The Man On The Cigarette Packet

This is the tenth post of the series 'LegalTrek'. The last post was 'Art of Cross Examination'. This post explains why many witnesses are honestly mistaken about the identification and why leading question are not allowed in the Examination-in-Chief.

LegalTrek 
How I Became A Lawyer।। Allahabad High Court Is Born।।Lucknow Bench - Historical Necessity।। Introduction to Setalvad।। Benches and The Law Commission।। Court of Appeal – Not A Good Idea: Some Suggestions।। Courtroom - Finest Legal Biography।।Leibowitz - The First Case।। Art of Cross Examination।। The Man On The Cigarette Packet



Leibowitz was often skeptical on identification of the accused. He used to say that witnesses can look at something without seeing it. But maintain that they do not knowingly give false statement because they bonafide believe it. 

After Leibowitz became a judge, he was once invited to speak before Lawyers' club dinner. The toastmaster introduced him by saying that in his court a new judicial presumption has been established - 'The eyewitness may well be mistaken' and 'no defendant was ever convicted in his court on false or mistaken testimony of eyewitness'

When Leibowitz got up to speak, he talked about some cases of mistaken identity and then asked how many of them smoked Camel cigarettes. At that time, it was a popular cigarette in US. About one quarter, including the toastmaster, raised their hands.  He chose the toastmaster and four others. 

Leibowitz asked the toastmaster how many he smoked per day. The toastmaster said that he smoked two packets a day, for last twenty years. Leibowitz roughly calculated - two packets a day or about seven hundred packets a year or fourteen thousand packets in the last twenty year. 'With 20 cigarettes in a packet, you must have taken out the packet half a million times' he said.

Leibowitz gave five of them a piece of paper and asked them to write an answer to the question, 'In the picture on the packet, is the man leading the camel, or sitting on its back'. 

The men wrote their answers on the paper and gave it to  Leibowitz. He read the answers, 'Two of you say that the man is leading the camel; two say that he is on the back and one writes that there is no man'. He asked them to take out the packet and see the answer. To their surprise, they found no man in the picture. 

Then, Leibowitz explained the difference between seeing and perceiving.  They had seen the picture but had not perceived it and there was element of suggestion that there was a man. This is common in real life.

We all know that in the examination in chief, leading questions are not permitted but in cross examination, they are permitted. The reason is to obviate the bias due to suggestion. 
  
However,  Leibowitz would not be remembered for  all this. He would be remembered for Scottsboro Boys' case: the most important constitutional case in US in the twentieth century; the case that inspired Harper Lee to write 'To Kill A Mocking Bird'. The trial of Scottsboro Boys' case took place in Alabama. Lee was also from Alabama and, at that time, was of the same age as Scout, the protagonist of the book. In the next few posts, we will talk about this case.

#LegalTrek #YatindraSingh 
#Courtroom #SamuelLeibowitz #CrossExamination

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

THE UNIFORM MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE BILL...

Two areas are close to my heart, namely uniform civil code and population control. I had drafted bills in late 1990's before I was  offered judgeship. The bills were distributed in the Parliament at that time but before they could be introduced (whether as a bill from the public or as a private member bill) the Parliament was dissolved. 
The Central government has asked the Law Commission to examine the issue of implementing the  Uniform Civil Code in detail and submit a report. I thought of publishing the bill relating to Uniform Civil Code that I had drafted.

NIGHT DRAMA THAT SUCCEEDED

Sometime ago, there were headlines in the newspaper 'Night Drama that did not succeed'. Here is the story of a night drama that succeeded. 
Kalyan Singh was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Romesh Bhandari was the Governor. He,  illegally dismissed the Kalyan Singh Government on 21st February, 1998.  A writ petition was filed the smae night and he was reinstated. This is the only time that the a deposed head of a State was pput back in saddle by the court. Here is the account of the same. 
The writ petition at the Allahabad High Court was filed by Dr. NKS Gaur, an MLA from Allahabad North and Minister of Higher Education in UP, but for the sake of convenience, the case is referred as 'the Kalyan-Singh case'.  
During my tenure as a judge, it has been matter of speculation/ complaint how I became Additional Advocate General and why was this case entrusted to me. This is explained in Appendix-I to this article. In order to complete the picture, Romesh Bhandari's …

THE HABEAS CORPUS CASE

Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees right to the life and liberty. Right to move to the court to enforce Article 21 was suspended under Article 359 of the Constitution during internal emergency (1975-77). Soon a question arose if, in such a situation, a writ of Habeas Corpus is maintainable? ADM Jabalpur Vs Shiv Kant Shukla AIR 1976 SC 1207 : (1976)2 scc 521: 1976 UJ (SC) 610: 1976 Cr LR (SC) 303: 1976 CrL J 1945 (SC) (the Habeas Corpus case) dealt with this question. This article, written 20 years after the aforesaid case was decided, narrates about the incidents, lawyers and judges connected with that case and what has happened to them.
‘The time has come’ The Walrus said ‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax-
Of cabbages - and kings-
And why the sea is boiling hot-
And whether pigs have wings’ Through the Looking Glass; Lewis Carroll