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A Lecture To Students Of Criminal Law

July 7, 2019 Featured Today No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

I did not deliver the following lecture, though I have given talks to law students. The following is based on a rather vivid dream I had. The essential idea in the dream seemed to have sufficient merit to be transcribed into a written article:
Good morning! I am most honored and pleased to have the opportunity to speak to you and I address you as future lawyers, judges, at the delta in New Orleans, a mighty waterway. Small beginnings can produce stupendous results.
Now I ask, what is the seed, the humble beginning from which the gigantic apparatus of this school of criminal law develops? I will write two words on the blackboard and ask you to think about how they relate to each other. Here are the words: “accusation” and “conviction.”
If a conviction rested solely on an accusation, life would be simple and there would be no need for a law school and the million things that go with it. If I accuse you of stealing my watch, you are thereby convicted of theft and there is no need for some kind of due process. The cold fact that you did not pilfer my watch is entirely irrelevant.
The most heartbreaking book I have ever read is The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. In the story, two men are accused of murder and, without any supporting evidence, are executed. One of the victims is allowed time to write a letter to his wife, professing his love for her and insisting on his innocence. It was later revealed that the two men were innocent.
I was enraged by the story. Something crucial was missing, something that made it all too clear that a mere accusation is not the same as a conviction. That something, of course, is justice. And because we love justice, we go to elaborate means to help ensure that it prevails. We educate and train people such as yourselves to go through endless inconveniences to prove to the world that a conviction must be just and not merely the product of an accusation.
And so, we are all terribly inconvenienced because we must take the difficult road and make sure that justice, not accusation, determines guilt or innocence. There is an old adage that justice is “what the judge ate for breakfast.” There are more jokes about the law profession than about any other profession. Perhaps this is because the law poses ideals that are so difficult to realize. The kindest quip I have ever come across is that lawyers do not grow old, they just lose their appeal.
To make my point using two different words, let me salute you as “executives” and not as “executioners.” The executioner takes the easy way out. His main concern is power, not justice. Let us not follow in the footsteps of King Henry VIII who executed not only some of his best friends, but two of his own wives.
The inclusion of justice makes things more difficult, but it also makes things more beautiful, and all beautiful things are the result of surmounting difficulties. It also makes things more human, and human beings are who we all are. We abandon our humanity at our own peril.
Former Connecticut Sen. Thomas Dodd, who must have said wiser things, once remarked that “there ought to be a law so a man knows whether he is doing right or wrong.” Things cannot be that simple. In the final analysis it is not the law that determines justice, but justice that determines the law. And the law must rest on truth. The word “verdict” (verum + dicere) means to tell the truth.
As future ambassadors of the law, you must be devoted to justice and truth, values that are not always easy to come by. In addition, you need the courage to stand up for justice and truth. What went into the very building we are now occupying in terms of time and energy is prototypic of your own formation. Character that is woven of courage, justice, and truth requires time, but its flower is of inestimable significance to the world.
I recall a bon mot of G.K. Chesterton, who said, “If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey toward the stars?”
May God bless you and always be at your side.
(Dr. Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus of St. Jerome’s University and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College. He is a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. His latest two books, How to Navigate Through Life and Apostles of the Culture of Life are posted on amazon.com. 12 Values of Paramount Importance is in process.)

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Within 5 year of gay "marriage" being legal, we have:

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* 150 genders
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