Many readers asked me what the effect of an Oscar nomination performance in the witness stand would be on the Judge. Frankly nothing! It plays no part in establishing guilt as only the evidence accepted by the court as evidence would lead to a verdict - not all the tears in the world. In South Africa there are no juries to impress with such performances...the process is cold and efficient which is a good thing for justice in general. Whatever you say will be tested against the evidence.
One of the main reasons why the male dominated legal community opposed female lawyers at the beginning of the last century was exactly this...women were supposed to be too emotional and unable to look at the facts (evidence) presented in a calm and professional (meaning unemotional) way. This would then have dire consequences for the accused if they get emotional. Also, you hear and see things in a criminal court which is beyond description and they wanted to protect the females from the worst elements of society. Obviously they forgot that in nature it is usually the female specie that does the actual killing. I doubt if females needed or wanted or even asked for such noble sentiments from men and so they came rushing into the legal profession determine to show they can be good lawyers also.
Historically and practically the effect was that female lawyers have always bent backwards to show how unemotional they can be in court. I say again, tears will have no effect on the outcome of the trial as the Judge must be seen to be impartial and not subject to overly emotional behaviour. That is one of the two legs of natural justice which we talk a lot of in my books. The other leg of natural justice is to hear the other side before you make a judgement. Something none of the enthusiastic commenters on the internet seems to care about and you know what Mr Eastwood said about the value of a man's opinion! It is not worth much.
Tears do play a role at sentencing though. That is only done after the guilty verdict and a long boring process in itself. If you showed remorse (tears or whatever), genuine remorse that is, for the Judge has seen all this many many times before; you may get a lesser sentence. Cynically I can tell you every single convicted man shows lots of remorse at that stage with promises of never doing it again etc. Unless seen as genuine it means as much as the oath we spoke about recently, nothing.
Further, you should also not have wasted the court's time by not pleading guilty (a controversial viewpoint which many would disagree with) for then the court may think your tears are designed to influence the court which is a big no-no. Any logical mind, and all lawyers are extremely logical people, will ask "why now?" Why did you not plead guilty and thrown yourself at the mercy of the court who would in such cases show much more mercy than what will happen now.
* Many times, no doubt, because the lawyer wanted to make more money from you though this is of course vehemently denied. Still, it happens.
In short, it is very bad strategy to start crying in court and doing so carries a terrible risk of not only being laughed at but being misunderstood even if you are one of the extremely few genuine ones. You just cannot win and should rather keep things calm and professional. The court will not be impressed and not be bothered. You run a very real risk of angering the court.
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. 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 practicing commercial law attorney for eight years. He also wrote several books on business, law, counter terrorism and security issues. He is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.