“Ah just loooove to see ‘em walk into mah courtroom in chains,” grinned the judge. I had joined a bar conversation in Atlanta, after a long day at a business conference. The old judge’s name was Earl, and he had that look of southern royalty – grey in the temples and red in the nose; high waisted suit pants with suspenders; and a sky blue shirt with a white cotton collar that wouldn’t fit all the way around his neck.
Earl was regaling us with courtroom war stories, and I was laughing partially because I’d never seen a “distinguished judge” letting loose like this. I decided to pick his brain. “OK Earl, how do you KNOW when someone is telling the truth or not?”
He didn’t miss a beat and proclaimed, “The truth is a funny thing. It’s funny how two people can see the facts in an entirely different way. But ah been around long enough to know when someone is flat out lyin’ to me.”
I followed up, “So how do you get the truth to come out?”
“Well ah got one trick that never failed me. I went out to Wal-mart and bought me one o’ those electronic mousetraps. Looks real high tech. I keep it up on the edge of the bench where everyone can see it. As soon as a defendant is done lyin’ to mah face, ah say ‘Is there anything you’d like to correct or add to your story?’ because in a minute I’m going to ask you to place your index finger into this machine and it will reveal the truth to me.”
Technically the judge was right, the act of asking them to put their finger into a presumed lie detector would indeed reveal the truth.
He said, “They always start sweatin’, and thinkin’, and thinkin’ a little more… and eventually cave in. They realize they better not give me a bucket full o’ leaky holes. Gets ‘em every time.”
In fact, he proclaimed that not once did anyone have to put their finger in the machine. Just the threat of being found out was enough to get a confession.
One point we could draw from this is that criminals are not the brightest bulbs in the chandelier. But it’s also a good reminder that when you are asked for the facts in an uncomfortable situation, it’s better to tell the real story and tone down the embellishments. Extra details are always harder to keep track of, and might spring a leak in your bucket.
The only story that will ALWAYS hold water… is the truth.