Of course nobody can claim to understand a British trial without first making a thorough study of Blackstone’s Commentaries and the Magna Carta, or at least seeing Marlene Dietrich in “Witness for the Prosecution.” But one thing was clear from our trial-watching at the Old Bailey: the star witness was CCTV, which apparently
casts its eye over just about every square foot of London.
When it’s all on tape, there’s no tedious questioning about what time Johnny arrived at the pub, or when Doreen left to go to the Ladies’ or who Georgie was talking to in the parking lot. It’s no mystery who threw the deceased’s cell phone into the toilet.
The human testimony then becomes an exercise in cinematic intepretation. Untrammeled by fussy evidentiary restrictions, the prosecutor asks Doreen why Johnny went to the Nun’s Head that evening when he usally goes to the Pope’s Nose. He asks Doreen what Georgie was talking about in the parking lot while she was in the Ladies. Nobody objects and Doreen does her best to explain what Johnny and Georgie must have been thinking.
Only when the defense lawyer asks if Doreen left the phone in the toilet to obliterate the incoming and outgoing calls does the judge intervene. “That’s speculative,” he sternly interrupts. “Let’s keep to the facts here.”
“Yes, my Lord, my apologies,” says the lawyer. Then everybody breaks for tea.