Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mendel Beilis -- Wiffle Ball Theory of Prosecuting a Case

This is the summary of the 33rd day of the Mendel Beilis trial, which occurred on 27 October, 1913 on the Julian calendar, 9 November, 1913 on the Gregorian calendar.

This day occupies pages 235 through 272 of Volume III of the transcript.

It continues with prosecution rebuttals and then the defense’s last word.

See the translation of the transcript for day 33.
Gruzenberg makes a wonderful point about the prosecution rebuttals, leading me to call their style “the wiffle ball school of prosecution”.  They have changed their position, mostly on whether the first blows were struck outside or not.  The idea that the first blows, in the head, were inflicted outside, comes from the fact that they went through the cap.  The prosecution theory is that Andrey would never have worn his cap in a house, it wouldn’t have been good manners, so he must have been outside when these blows were struck.

Gruzenberg points out that the supposed location, near the stables, was downhill from Beilis’ office and anybody who stopped in before noon could see it.  Even a fanatic doesn’t start a murder in broad daylight in a place that anybody could see.  The prosecution changed their argument to say that the murder did occur inside.  The defense pointed out that this means it could have happened in Cheberyak’s apartment.  A prosecution theory that changes with the wind is not a theory at all in the legal sense (or in the scientific sense either).  We’ll call it the wiffle ball theory.  If you fill a wiffle ball with water, and you try to keep the water inside by rolling the ball randomly on the ground, it not only doesn’t help, it makes things worse.  That’s what the prosecution has done.

Grigorevich-Barsky makes his only closing speech.  He claims that there were no obstacles to Mashkevich’s bringing in and processing Vera’s gang.  He might have guessed that the government told Mashkevich to leave the threesome alone, but he didn’t say it in court.  He didn’t have a basis, because the defense didn’t know how much information the government kept from them.

Maklakov makes a good point in his second closing argument:  How could the prosecution let Cheberyak be guilty of so many lies?  How is it that they, experienced jurists and legislators, were absolutely incapable of detecting her in a lie?  It’s not that hard.  A moment of hesitation in answering, a changing story, the idea that a newspaper writer could afford 200 rubles worth of wine within a month of paying 100 rubles for a trip, on a salary of 300 rubles – it didn’t add up and the prosecution ignored that and prosecuted Beilis anyway.  It’s the prosecution’s fault that Cheberyak pulled the wool over their eyes; they played deaf and dumb.  Why?  Readers know the answer.  Maklakov was no dummy, he probably knew it too.

Point of language: the word “phrase” at the times used to mean something said that was just to make a point, it wasn’t necessarily true.  It was a derivation from French where phraseur meant somebody who talked grandly, just to hear himself speak.  So if you wondered why “phrase” kept getting tossed around, that’s why.

Just a note: both times that the court has dealt with the murder in Singaevsky’s words, Zamyslovsky has become fixated on the idea of Latyshev throwing up.  Repeating the words, the synonyms over and over.  I don’t get it.  And today, while admitting Singaevsky told the truth when he confessed, Zamyslovsky nevertheless says he didn’t tell the truth about Latyshev’s reaction.  Zamyslovsky continues to argue all around a big hole leaving plenty of room for a solution that fits the facts but proves he’s wrong. Finally, Zamyslovsky engages in more of his Freudian projection.  Well, at least he’s consistent.

To "The Verdicts"
Judge:  Fyodor Boldyrev 

            Criminal Prosecutor, Oscar Vipper
            Civil Prosecutor Georgy Zamyslovsky
            Private Civil Prosecutor Aleksey Shmakov 

            Oscar Gruzenberg
Nikolay Karabchevsky
Dmitry Grigorevich-Barsky
Alexandr Zarudny
Vasily Maklakov

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved


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