Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ever been a witness in court?

It is known that most people in Kenya approach the courts with fear and trepidation. A visit to the court reduces even mighty men.

Lawyers, magistrates and judges have contributed to this image. They ask a barrage of questions that can confuse even sharp minds.

Lawyers bank on their ability to confuse and harass in order to get answers.

For instance I was listening to a case where one of those mean looking directors was on the stand. He heads a big company and to cap it all, he is white.

So with a mastery of English, the witness had managed to evade all questions by the lawyer until he (the lawyer) asked; so you are a conniving fraudster?

The witness turned red, was seething with anger and said all the things he was trying to hide.

So, the lawyer might be bad and hated, but he won the day for his client.

Then there are these other lawyers who ask the same question ten times or ask a long convoluted question that leaves the witness dazed and saying all contradictory things.

There was this guy, he came to court claiming he was a manager and was speaking very good English. At one point, he forgot his English and asked for an interpreter in his mother tongue, he no longer understood or maybe he chose to be stubborn.

I guess with a magistrate, a bad cross examining lawyer and a court full of eyes staring at you is a proper recipe for fear.

Woe unto you if you in the rural courts!

But there is a slaying ground for lawyers; it’s called the court of appeal. In that court, the appellate judges ask questions before you start talking. Only the toughest lawyers survive.

That is why they hire the lead counsel.