Sometimes, it can seem that the whole world is conspiring to cover up what for the rich and powerful can be a very inconvenient truth.

BEWARE THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF GUILT

A young man I had known as a child died tragically in a single vehicle car accident when he was ejected from the vehicle in which he was riding with a friend.  The car veered off the road, tumbled, and crashed in a ditch.  The friend, who’d survived the accident with hardly a scratch, was from a prominent family that owned the vehicle involved in the fatal crash.

No one questioned the survivor’s story, which placed the accident victim behind the wheel:  Not the Police.  Not the Coroner. Not even the engineers consulted as potential expert witnesses. No one that is, except the victim’s mother, who sued the survivor for “wrongful death,” alleging that he was the  negligent driver.  The defense attorneys filed a motion for “summary judgment” based on the friend’s sworn affidavit that the decedent had been driving.  Because there were no other witnesses to contradict his affidavit, the mother’s case was at serious risk of a premature end, which prompted her first attorney to bow out of the case.

At that point, things started to get interesting.  The victim’s aunt had read a novel written by former L.A. District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, who’d prosecuted Charles Manson and family.  Mr. Bugliosi’s novel showed how a person’s actions can betray the “consciousness of guilt”– for instance, by fleeing – which can be used to implicate him in a crime.

This principle made it possible to avoid the summary judgment.  By showing how, in the survivor’s police report, he included a false statement: that he’d just met the victim for the first time. This was a flat-out lie that showed he had a consciousness of guilt.  (The two young men in fact were lifelong friends.) Then, when a new expert we hired demonstrated that from the physical evidence, the victim must have been a passenger, the defense caved in. They settled up on the eve of trial. Viva insurance!