The evidence never lies

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The evidence never lies

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Armchair detectives do not need to go to the crime scene to solve the mystery. They arrive at a logical conclusion based on other people’s stories or newspaper articles. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1893 classic “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter,” Sherlock Holmes says of his brother: “If the art of detection began and ended in reasoning from an armchair, my brother would be the greatest criminal agent that ever lived.”

The legendary Hercule Poirot, created by Dame Agatha Christie, also belongs to this class of armchair detectives. Even when visiting the crime scene, he does not stoop to pick up a stray hair or collect blood samples. He merely listens to the people involved and uses his “little gray cells” to reach a fabulous and logical conclusion.

“Murder on the Orient Express” is the pinnacle of armchair detection. The body of an elderly gentleman is found on a train that has been trapped by a snowstorm. The 12 passengers all give 12 different alibis. Poirot, who happens to be traveling on the train as well, arrives at a stunning conclusion just by listening to all these accounts.

Unfortunately, modern investigation is not as romantic. The suspects frequently deny any wrongdoing and the investigators often waver in their judgment.

In the wildly popular TV series “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CSI Las Vegas supervisor Gil Grissom always tells his team that people may lie but the evidence never does.

One cannot charge a person without evidence, even if all the circumstances and the investigators’ suspicions point toward the guilt of a specific suspect.

The “Lady Go” case in 1981, which shocked the Korean public, is a good example of this. The suspect was arrested on charges of murdering three people including her aunt-in-law. The only evidence the prosecutors had to go on was her confession. Later, however, it was discovered that she had made the confession under duress and she was acquitted on all charges three years later.

It makes sense that one must present evidence in order to make a proper accusation. Even Bill Clinton’s denials of an illicit affair crumbled under the weight of a single blue dress worn by White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Evidence will keep us safe from the chaos of lies and lopsided statements.

Even though the results of the Cheonan investigation have been announced, there are some people still spreading rumors that it was an accident or even a fabrication. These allegations are all the more ludicrous because they do not come from armchair detectives but from people who have actually been to the scene. If what they allege is true, then it means that the evidence lies, but if so, whatever are we to trust?

*The writer is a culture and sports reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.


By Ki Sun-min
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