When you read a press release or a lawyer’s letter there is a lot you can safely deduct from what is not said or how it is said. We never read such things as a story but we read between the lines to see what is actually said. Whenever a man is stating things like “as far as my knowledge goes” you know he is lying. He is leaving the door open to correct himself at a later stage.
You have to be suspicious at such comments. Why the need to leave a door open? You either are guilty or you are innocent. There are seldom in law grey areas when you cut the bull away and get to the point without speculation. Many times such sentences are included because you suspect your client is misspeaking as did Hillary Clinton when she thought she was under sniper fire in Bosnia (or cloud cuckoo land where she feels happy). The news videos clearly showed that no sniper or any attack was taking place at that day in that area, so she “misspoke.” Normal people call such utterances, denied of all truth, plain old fashioned lying. It is an overused word that a “sniper” had fired on you. Let me assure you, if a sniper (a decent one) fired at you, you would be dead. They don’t miss what they aim for.
Long ago, I was still a small child, I went with my father to a local political meeting. Why I would not know as he was not interested in politicians and had a rather dim view of them which would almost cost him his job in the end. At the meeting one oom (Afrikaans, a grownup man) shouted to the politician, it may have been Dirk Mudge, that he will shoot him for being too liberal. Mr Mudge shouted back (those were the days of manly debate) that he wears body armour. This fellow can take a pot shot if he wants. The reply was classic enough for me to remember it after forty years, “Mr Mudge, I shoot all pigs and politicians in the head!” Now if you think about this it is an easy target, they do have over inflated heads.
Every lawyer, the good ones, developed a star of utter disbelief by the time they are 26 years of age or more than one year in the profession. You have to use it often gazing at the client until he confesses that he may have told you the events wrongly. In fact, now that he thinks about it, he remembers…whatever he remembers now and did not yesterday. Such a stare is beneficial later on in life when teenagers start to think that dad is old and worse, he is old-fashioned and that he or she (the teenager) has nothing left to learn in life and can lie and cheat his or her way through life hopping from one bed to another because getting pregnant cannot happen the first time. And that sex is love. Yep, so there is after all something useful in law. Who would have known? I have a great stare I practiced in front of the mirror (an old and respected police technique for the development of an evil eye).
The other signs we look for or did when I still bothered and plotted in private practice is to see how many technical points your opponent grabs at. The more he does the lesser case he has is the rule of the thumb. What they do is to dispute everything and anything in a scatter gun approach forcing you to enter a Shaggy defense (deny, deny, deny). They are trying to muddle the waters just enough to let the judge (who knows what is happening, he did it himself at occasion, no doubt) contemplate that they may have created enough doubt for an acquittal or a ruling in their favor. It is a low class approach in my view but effective enough when desperate.
I have a few clients trying to work with government (not only the South African one, they are all the same no matter where) and it is almost always against my advice. I don’t accept that we have a clean corruption free government and this includes anything contaminated with government. The moment you touch them they will want bribes. Perhaps I am wrong, who knows, I may be wrong in exceptional cases but mostly I would advise you to stay away as it is not worth it. There is always a catch and the catch is ten percent or other kickbacks and all of this constitute fraud and a rape of your conscience. Have no doubt that it is the way the game is played and we see this in the private sector also where one hand washes the other one all the time. I have to wonder when business meetings take place in Dubai or even Johannesburg and you are offered a hotel suite with a woman of your choice, usually from the Eastern Block, to entertain you. How many men will remember the missus back home? How many will say, well, I need this contract or I need to keep my boss happy and she will understand and boys will be boys. Yep, I doubt if she will and will advise you to rather run away to her arms as a good wife is a gift from God and by the way, so is a good husband. And another thing, you are not a boy anymore, you are a man able to make choices.
I read that some politically correct people are now complaining on one of the leeches of Buckingham Palace referring to his wife as “the missus” as if that is not a term of endearment. I don’t hold the Royal Family in high regard, why should I? I blame Queen Victoria for the concentration camps and genocide on my tribe (the Afrikaner) during the Second Anglo Boer War. Nor do I think much of the princes “military service” under controlled conditions and the ability to run away to their miserable island when the going gets tough. History will show you they last lost a man in combat (not flying accidents as happened in the Second World War) four hundred years ago? Is that by chance? Like hell it is. Still, there is nothing wrong calling your wife your “missus” in my eyes. I think it is rather nice in a way.
Let me finish this blog by saying that in law you either shut up completely as is your right when accused or you tell the whole story and leave your fate at the mercy of the court. What is happening with SAFA now is that the FBI knows a lot more and is releasing what they know bit by bit to see what happens. It is not by chance, it is forensic legal principles in action. Every time the accused then denies it they then release something else to show they lied. Then the accused remember and explain more and every time they do so they are deeper in trouble and less believable (if possible). They have yet to realise they are not dealing with the local incompetents. It is the classic forensic law method of getting charges to stick and whoever is advising the accused has no clue on forensic law methodology. He or she would be well advised to read my book “Tricks of Trade – Memories of a Rogue Lawyer” or find clients willing to listen to reason. Perhaps that is the problem, they cannot remember so well.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. During his police years, he was awarded the South African Police Medal for Combating Terrorism twice besides lesser awards. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a commercial law attorney for eight years. These days he is the owner of JKLS Africa and Associates, a specialist legal consultancy which specializes in reducing legal risk in sub Saharan Africa. He wrote several books on business, law, counter-terrorism and security issues. At times he is asked to participate on the Voice of America regarding legal forensic matters.