Of the Credibility of Witnesses.


  To determine exactly the credibility of a witness, and the force of evidence, is an important point in every good legislation. Every man of common sense, that is, every one whose ideas have some connection with each other, and whose sensations are conformable to those of other men, may be a witness; but the credibility of his evidence will be in proportion as he is interested in declaring or concealing the truth. Hence it appears how frivolous is the reasoning of those who reject the testimony of women, on account of their weakness; how puerile it is not to admit the evidence of those who are under sentence of death, because they are dead in law; and how irrational to exclude persons branded with infamy; for in all these cases they ought to be credited, when they have no interest in giving false testimony.

  The credibility of a witness, then, should only diminish in proportion to the hatred, friendship, or connections, subsisting between him and the delinquent. One witness is not sufficient for, whilst the accused denies what the other affirms, truth remains suspended, and the right that every one has to be believed innocent turns the balance in his favour.

  The credibility of a witness is the less as the atrociousness of the crime is greater, from the improbability of its having been committed; as in cases of witchcraft, and acts of wanton cruelty. The writers on penal laws have adopted a contrary principle, viz. that the credibility of a witness is greater as the crime is more atrocious. Behold their inhuman maxim, dictated by the most cruel imbecility. In atrocissimis, leviores conjecturae sufficiunt, & licit judici jura transgredi. Let us translate this sentence, that mankind may see one of the many unreasonable principles to which they are ignorantly subject. In the most atrocious crimes, the slightest conjectures are sufficient, and the judge is allowed to exceed the limits of the law. The absurd practices of legislators are often the effect of timidity, which is a principal source of the contradictions of mankind. The legislators, (or rather lawyers, whose opinions when alive were interested and venal, but which after their death become of decisive authority, and are the sovereign arbiters of the lives and fortunes of men), terrified by the condemnation of some innocent person, have burdened the law with pompous and useless formalities, the scrupulous observance of which will place anarchical impunity on the throne of justice; at other times, perplexed by atrocious crimes of difficult proof, they imagined themselves under a necessity of superseding the very formalities established by themselves; and thus, at one time with despotic impatience, and at another with feminine timidity, they transform their solemn judgments into a game of hazard.

  But, to return: in the case of witchcraft, it is much more probable that a number of men should be deceived than that any person should exercise a power which God hath refused to every created being. In like manner, in cases of wanton cruelty, the presumption is always against the accuser; for no man is cruel without some interest, without some motive of fear or hate. There are no spontaneous or superfluous sentiments in the heart of man; they are all the result of impressions on the senses.

  The credibility of a witness may also be diminished by his being a member of a private society, whose customs and principles of conduct are either not known or are different from those of the public. Such a man has not only his own passions, but those of the society of which he is a member.

  Finally, the credibility of a witness is still when the question relates to the words of a criminal; for the tone of voice, the gesture, all that precedes, accompanies, and follows the different ideas which men annex to the same words, may so alter and modify a man's discourse, that it is almost impossible to repeat them precisely in the manner in which they were spoken. Besides, violent and uncommon actions, such as real crimes, leave a trace in the multitude of circumstances that attend them, and in their effects; but words remain only in the memory of the hearers, who are commonly negligent or prejudiced. It is infinitely easier, then, to found an accusation on the words than an the actions of a man; for in these the number of circumstances urged against the accused afford him variety of means of justification.

上一篇:Of the Intent of Punishments.

下一篇:Of Evidence and the Proofs of a Crime, and of the Form of Judgment.



第11章 - 来自《省委书记》

51  马扬赶紧从女儿手里拿过无绳电话机,一边匆匆上楼,匆匆关上房门,一边说到:“贡书记……您还没休息了”“……我哪敢休息啊?”贡开宸拿着电话,在办公室里慢慢踱着小方步说到:“我一直在琢磨,今天晚上你肯定会忍不住的,肯定会‘杀’回来跟我论说一番的。我一直在等着你。怎么的?是我判断有误?还是你马扬有长进了,沉得住气了?”马杨故意哈哈一笑到:“您敲,您判断失误了吧。告诉您哪,我早睡了。回来就舒舒服服洗了个热水澡。睡觉前还喝了杯热牛奶,养胃安神又补钙。该干吗干吗,我才不着急上火哩。”贡开宸嘿嘿一笑到:“你把电话挂到免提上……去看看 

结束语:战场上升腾的希望 - 来自《解放战争全记录第二卷》

1946年6月26日,不可一世的蒋介石,在其美国主子的扶持下,亲自启动了内战战车,打开了潘多拉魔盒,放出了反和平、反文明的战争狂魔……蒋介石发誓要消灭中国共产党,他想用自己已经沾满共产党人鲜血的双手扼断中国共产党及其领导下的解放区军民的咽喉……  然而,英勇不屈的中国共产党人,没有被张着血盆大口的蒋介石所吓倒,从中原突围的第一声枪响之后,解放区军民全面抗击的号角就已吹响。这战斗的号角,这不屈的号角,吹遍了陕甘宁边区,传遍了晋冀鲁豫大地,传遍了苏鲁平原,传遍了晋察冀的原野,传遍了黑土地上的每……去看看 

第二章 论爱与恨 - 来自《人性论(第二卷 论情感)》

第一节 论爱与恨的对象和原因  给爱和恨两种情感下任何定义是完全不可能的;这是因为两者只产生一个简单的印象,而没有任何混合或组合。我们也同样无需根据其本性、来源、原因和对象,企图对它们加以描述;这是因为爱和恨正是我们现在研究的主题,同时也因为这些情感自身根据我们平常的感觉和经验就已被人充分认识。关于骄傲和谦卑,我们已提到这一点,在这里,关于爱和恨,我们仍要加以重复;这两组情感之间有着那样大的一种类似关系,所以我们就不得不先略述一下我们关于前面一组情感的推理,以便说明后面一组的情感。  骄傲和谦卑的直……去看看 

第十三章 自由主义与行政:“法治国” - 来自《自由秩序原理》

如果一种并不明确的一般性幸福须由最高权力来判断并成为其目的,那么对于这种最高权力又当如何施以明确的限制呢?人们是否应当视君王及皇亲国戚为人民的家长,而不论他们可能变成暴君这样的危险有多大?——G.H.von Berg   1.欧洲大陆的大多数国家,在18世纪中叶以前都经历了约两百年的君主专制统治(absolute government),而这种统治无疑摧毁了自由的传统。尽管一些早期的观念由自然法理论家承袭下来并得到了发扬,但是真正促使它们得以复兴的主要动力则来自于英吉利海峡那一边。不过值得我们注意的是,伴随着新自由复兴运动的发展,欧……去看看 

第四章 航空之路(一) - 来自《战争赌徒山本五十六》

死神插上铁翅膀,长空万里皆战场;    山本慧眼履新职,航空路上勇于创。   话说有了几年海外经历的山本五十六,对欧美海军的发展情况了如指掌。在欧美的考察研修,使他认识到无论从日本海军本身的实力还是日本经济的整体实力,日本都无法和英美相抗衡,但日本在一战后急剧的扩张要求,像一架飞跑的战车推动着日本在太平洋和美国角逐,日美矛盾又无法避免。敢于正视现实的山本,在认识到日本的实力与其所要达到目的的矛盾后,没有束手待毙,等待观望,而是从世界军事技术的发展中寻找弥补日本海军实力的办法。这一办法,终于在一战后日益发……去看看