Friday, July 13, 2012

The power of questioning

Antonin Scalla, an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was quoted to have said "that reliability be assessed in a particular manner: by testing in the crucible of cross-examination."  Cross examination, a counsel's ultimate tool to prevent a miscarriage of justice.  Today I'm not talking about justice in a court room, rather I like to talk about finding the truth, or a moving towards it, in events that happen outside the court room.  And the tool is a junior partner of cross examination: the simple power of questioning.  We question our kids to ascertain whether or not they lie, and likewise, lovers question each other, in the name of love, or jealousy!

In yesterday's press conference on the new investigation report published by the Hunan authority in China, reporters from Hong Kong questioned the spokesman, in the name of truth seeking.  There are two key queries raised by the community towards the investigation report as I mentioned in my post yesterday.  The signature question the spokesman chose to remain silent.  Yet he answered the second question on the inconsistency between the "fact" of partial suspension and the "fact" of a neck fracture.  The spokesman gave a new interpretation to the "facts": according to him, it was now a concluded "fact" that it is a full suspension rather than a partial suspension.  And in order to convince people that a full suspension suicidal attempt was even possible under the state of physical condition of Li (a blind man with other severe physical/mobility disabilities), the spokesperson cited a "new" evidence: Li had two previous suicidal attempts before (with exact days cited), one using the same method, one using "shoe-strings"!  Of course Li can't be asked to prove or disprove the claim of having two previous attempted suicide, nor can his sister be reached and asked likewise, because she and many sympathizers  simply "disappeared".

The use of questioning does bring us closer to the truth.  We can certainly judge any situation better with the tool of cross examination in court and the tool of simple questioning out of court.

A classic on the subject of cross examination

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