Who is telling the truth?

Does the question raise an impossible answer?

We know that philosophers define “truth” as the conformity of the mind’s perception to reality.  Common sense tells us that people lie even when under oath.  We recognize that the person interrogated presents different attitudes, motivations, and more from those of the questioner.

As shown by Cullen Murphy’s essay, “Torturer’s Apprentice” in the Jan-Feb, 2012 issue of “The Atlantic” magazine, the person interrogated may use several methods to hide the truth, such as “equivocation, redirecting the question, feigning astonishment, twisting the meaning of words, changing the subject, feigning illness or stupidity” as well as “reporting self-serving information.”

Cullen Muphy’s piece details the many techniques humanity has used to discover the truth such as those of the Catholic Church’s Inquisitors as listed centuries ago in the “Directorium Inquisitorum”  and such as those of the United States Army as listed today in the military handbook know as  the “Human Intelligent Collector Operations.”

Naturally, humanity initially relied on an all-knowing God to extract the truth through the medieval trial of ordeal, survival of which meant the interrogated person was truthful.

Eventually, humanity determined it possessed the intellectual capacity to discover the truth by using various means of torture, including inquisitional torture by “El Submarino,” ancient Spanish meaning asphyxiation by covering and submerging the face with fluids, and now translated as waterboarding.

Nevertheless, today’s interrogators still understand how any witness may attempt to hide the truth by utilizing some of the age old methods present during the Catholic Church’s Inquisitions, meaning that a person to be interrogated may be “wily and disputatious,” or “resort to sophistries, deceit, and verbal trickery,” or may be “humble and accommodating”—as demonstrated in Cullen Murphy’s essay.

Humanity now has the assistance of the polygraph to discover the truth, although known inaccuricies of the polygraph prevent these findings as reliable evidence in most legal proceedings.  Courts still mandate that the exclusive province to determine credibility of any witness rests with a jury—the human lie detector.  (However, still preserving the inadmissibility of the polygraph in a jury trial, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on March7, 2012 ruled (with twisted logic) that in a Revocation of Probation Hearing, the trial judge’s sole reliance on the defendant’s failure on 5 polygraphs was permissible since the testifying experts had also relied  on this normally inadmissible evidence.)

Yes, many law enforcement agencies place strong reliance on the polygraph’s ability toward discerning the truth from a criminal suspect but nonetheless continue the search for extraneous evidence in their quest for the truth.

Perhaps, before questioning begins, a witness could be hypnotized, or could be injected with the truth serum used in spy novels or crime thrillers, or be subjected to some other magic drug or procedure from “CSI” of television lore.  Maybe science will truly overcome humanity’s imperfections in it’s search for the truth.

Thankfully, in “The Grievance Committee” series of novels the Investigatory Hearing Panel Members don’t rely on torture to uncover the truth.  Instead the Panel Members observe the accused lawyer, the complainant, any witnesses, and any legal representative.  The Panel Members see demeanor, body language, facial expressions, eye movements, muscle tautness—all of which may disclose some tell-tale clue.

And the Panel Members in “The Grievance Committee” series of novels hear not only the substance of the testimony but also hear the speech tone, hesitation, speed, pattern, among other clues.

The Panel Members in “The Grievance Committee” series of novels observe the mechanisms a person may use to hide the truth.

But today in the real Texas legal disciplinary process the Investigatory Hearing is no longer utilized to discover the truth.  Today, the Panel Members do not see or hear the complainant, the accused lawyer, any witnesses, or their legal representative.

Under the former system (always used in “The Grievance Committee” series of novels), an Investigatory Hearing  is required when the complainant’s mere allegation–if true on its face–demonstrates a probable Disciplinary Rules’ violation, even if the accused lawyer’s response absolutely proves the opposite.  In that particular instance, the resulting public-relations hearing for the benefit of the complainant truly wasted everyone’s time.

In that instance, instead of allowing the Panel Members to summarily dismiss the invalid complaint and continue the existence of the Investigatory Hearing process where questions of credibility or questions of fact existed, the Investigatory Hearing process has been eliminated.

Now, under today’s procedure—without the benefit of anyone’s personal appearance—the Grievance Committee Panel Members must still decide who is telling the truth before either dismissing the complaint or finding probable cause that the accused lawyer violated the Disciplinary Rules to earn a sanction ranging from a private reprimand to the death penalty of disbarment.

So, today before the Grievance Committee, who is telling the truth?  The complainant?  The accused lawyer? The witnesses?

Is the question still the one with the  impossible answer?    Maybe when there is no eye to eye contact between the questioner and the person interrogated.

Who is telling the truth?

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