Welcome togeneral knowledge networkfront page

“Have some wine, then.” He filled a cup and slid it

source:rnatime:2023-11-29 20:55:16

This would provide us with an anthropological classification, certain and speedy, of every convicted person, as well as a legal classification of the material fact, and we should avoid the scandal of what are known as experts for the prosecution and experts for the defence. There should be but one finding of experts, either by agreement between them or by a scientific reference to arbitration, as in the German, Austrian, and Russian system; and over this finding the judges and the litigants should have no other power than to call for explanations from the chief of the experts.

“Have some wine, then.” He filled a cup and slid it

In this way we should further avoid the scandal of judges entirely ignorant of the elementary ideas of criminal biology, psychology, and psycho-pathology, like the president of an assize court whom I heard telling a jury that he was unable to say why an expert ``wanted to examine the feet of a prisoner in order to come to a decision about his head.'' This president, who was an excellent magistrate and a learned jurist was wholly unacquainted with the elements of the theory of degeneracy, like one of his colleagues whom I heard saying, when the expert spoke of the abnormal shape of the ears of a prisoner (in accord with the inquiries of Morel and Lombroso), ``That depends on how the hat is worn.''

“Have some wine, then.” He filled a cup and slid it

For in consequence of the assumption, made by Kant amongst others, that questions of mental disease belong to the philosopher rather than to the physician, and of the absurd and shallow idea which superficial persons entertain of those who are insane, picturing them as constantly raving, the judge or juryman who pins his faith to an expert in handwriting thinks himself above the necessity of taking the opinion of an expert in insanity.

“Have some wine, then.” He filled a cup and slid it

It must be recognised, however, that this foolish assumption is partly due to a reasonable anxiety for the public safety, under the sway of the classical theories, which allow the acquittal and discharge of criminals who are found to be of unsound mind. It will eventually disappear, either by the wider diffusion of elementary ideas of psycho-pathology or by the application of positive theories, which are far from carrying the proved insanity of a prisoner to the dangerous and absurd conclusion of his acquittal.

After the first stage of the collection of evidence, during which we can admit the legal representation of the accused, especially for the sake of eliciting both sides of the question, without, however, going so far as the individual exaggerations of complete publicity for the preliminary inquiry, we come to the second stage of procedure, that of the public discussion of the evidence.

The principals in this discussion represent the prosecution (public or private) and the defence; and for these, as I cannot go into great detail, I will only mention one necessary reform. That is the institution of a sort of public defence, by a legal officer such as used to be found in certain of the Italian provinces, under the title of ``advocate of the poor,'' who ought to be on a par with the public prosecutor, and to be substituted for the present institution of the official defence, which is a complete failure.

As for the actual discussion of evidence, when we have established the scientific rules of evidence, based upon expert acquaintance with criminal anthropology, and when we have eliminated all verbal contention over the precise measure of moral responsibility in the prisoner, the whole debate will be a criticism of the personal and material indications, of the determining motives, and the anthropological category to which the accused belongs, and of the consequent form of social defence best adapted to his physical and psychical character.

The practical conclusion of the criminal trial is arrived at in the third stage, that of the decision on the evidence.