“Objective truth has no relevance here.”

Those words carry a heavy meaning, coming from a defence lawyer.

From a practical standpoint, I get it: In a lot of cases, most of the witnesses are going to be people who have a vested interest in the outcome. In some cases, all of the witnesses are people with something at stake. In that scenario, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to tell you the objective truth. Instead. everyone is going to twist the truth in one way or another to serve their own purpose. Even if someone does tell you the objective truth, there’s no way of verifying it.

In short, searching for the truth just isn’t practical. Fine.

The problem is that not having access to objective truth opens up the possibility of mistakes being made. In very rare situations, it allows for factually innocent people to be incarcerated. More frequently, it allows factually guilty people to go free.

I used to be fine with the latter. I was a big believer that people should walk free, regardless of their factual guilt, unless the Crown could prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ironically, working in criminal law has turned me against that concept a little. In the last month and a half I’ve met a bunch of people who have (probably) done a lot of bad things. And honestly, it’s difficult at times to stomach the thought of some of these people going free. Just picturing the smug faces, happy as can be that they’ve gotten away with something illegal makes me cringe a little bit.

I don’t think anything can be done about this problem though. Errors are going to happen no matter what, and I’d still prefer that factually guilty individuals go free than factually innocent individuals go to jail.

It’s just a bit more difficult to digest when you’re actually in the trenches rather than just reading about cases in a textbook.

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