Of suggestive Interrogations.
The laws forbid suggestive interrogations; that is,
according to the civilians, questions which, with regard to the circumstances
of the crime, are special when they should be general; or, in other words,
those questions which, having an immediate reference to the crime, suggests to
the criminal an immediate answer. Interrogations, according to the law, ought
to lead to the fact indirectly and obliquely, but never directly or
immediately. The intent of this injunction is, either that they should not
suggest to the accused an immediate answer that might acquit him, or that they
think it contrary to nature that a man should accuse himself. But whatever be
the motive, the laws have fallen into a palpable contradiction, in condemning
suggestive interrogations, whilst they authorise torture. Can there be an
interrogation more suggestive than pain? Torture will suggest to a robust
villain an obstinate silence, that he may exchange a greater punishment for a
less; and to a feeble man confession, to relieve him from the present pain,
which affects him more than the apprehension of the future. If a special
interrogation be contrary to the right of nature, as it obliges a man to accuse
himself, torture will certainly do it more effectually. But men are influenced
more by the names than the nature of things.
He who obstinately refuses to answer the interrogatories
deserves a punishment, which should be fixed by the laws, and that of the
severest kind; the criminals should not, by their silence, evade the example
which they owe the public. But this punishment is not necessary when the guilt
of the criminal is indisputable; because in that case interrogation is useless,
as is likewise his confession, when there are, without it, proofs sufficient.
This last case is most common, for experience shews, that in the greatest
number of criminal prosecutions the culprit pleads not guilty.
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