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Including the Kitchen Sink

Milosevic has only 150 days to present his case.

by Barnabas
July 7, 2004

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The prosecution, which wrapped up its case in February after testimony from nearly 300 witnesses,  has tried to link Milosevic directly to the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s that left more than 200,000 people dead.
     Milosevic... has demanded that former U.S. President Bill Clinton and over 1,600 others appear as defense witnesses, but Milosevic has only 150 days to present his case. –CNN.com, July 5

All experts in the legal profession, including those trained by CourtTV, are welcome to stop reading. It will be clear on their terms that I don’t know what I am talking about. Fortunately, I write this column on my terms, at least insofar as the editor will post it. As Barnabas, I don’t pretend to be an expert on anything; I leave that to my real job. 

I do claim, however, to be the voice of common sense; and from that perspective very long trials are absurd, no matter what the legal arguments are for them. Juries, judges, and panels can only pretend to process the information that surfaces (or is more likely buried in thousands of pages) in a trial that lasts months or years. It makes the legal profession and system appear to be the most undisciplined in the world;  most of us work under realistic time restraints.

I picked up on this trial as I was scanning the headlines, not because I know much about the Balkans but because I was amazed to see that the trial was still on.  One word caused me to halt as I scanned the story. What do they mean, "only 150 days to present his case"?

To argue that justice requires lengthy process is nonsense, since justice rarely appears to be the primary goal of most prosecutions and defenses. Neither side wants perfect justice, because perfect justice almost always makes demands on everyone. What is desired on both sides is an imperfect justice that damages the opposition to the fullest possible extent. To the lay spectator most trial time  is given to obscuring facts if  they are against you, and enlarging them if they support you. The old saying goes, "everything but the kitchen sink" but the current process includes the kitchen sink.

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