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Submitted by: Raychelle Pacheco

Subject: Evidence
Professor: Atty. Parungo

A Few Good Men


(A Critique and Differentiation of Actual Truth and Legal Truth)

A Few Good Men is a movie which displays the difference between actual truth and legal truth,
the circumstances why each exists and which of the two normally prevails in carrying out justice.

The movie revolves around the trial of U.S. Marines Dawson and Private Downey who are facing
a court-martial on the ground of allegedly killing fellow Marine Private Santiago at the Guantanamo Bay
Naval Base in Cuba. In their defense, naval investigator Lieutenant commander JoAnne Galloway suspects
that a "code red" order, a hazing kind of punishment was carried out as a result of Santiagos failure to
respect the chain of command in his attempts to be transferred to another base. The case was given to
Lieutenant Kaffee, who has never been into trial since he always tends to plea bargain. Respondents
Dawson and Downey refused to enter plea bargaining and insisted that they were ordered by Kendrick to
execute the code red minutes after Kendrick publicly ordered the platoon not to touch Santiago. When
the trial began, the defense had a hard time proving their stand but nevertheless managed to establish
the existence of "code red" orders at Guantanamo and a code red was issued by Jessup. In the end,
Dawson and Downey are cleared of the murder charge, but found guilty of "conduct unbecoming a United
States Marine" and dishonorably discharged on the ground that they had failed to stand up for those too
weak to fight for themselves, like Santiago.

Actual truth is the real facts about something. It connotes that things are true. Ideally, actual truth
is the fundamental objective of adjudicative processes. Justice must be based on truth on what really
happened. However, each side has their own story, thus, it requires effective search to discover the actual
truth. This is where truth and justice depend. On the other hand, legal truth is the findings of fact that
generally accord with truth. It means objective, reliable facts that may be admitted as evidence in a trial.

Due to various circumstances, difference between actual truth and legal truth arises. Example,
the problems of evidence may frustrate finding of actual truth. Furthermore, procedures and the rules of
evidence, lead to formal findings of fact translating it to seemingly actual truth merely because this is
the accepted norm or process. Even the human-related circumstances such as lawyer representation,
inequality of resources available to the parties, prejudice or biases of judges, and their incompetency in
grasping and weighing evidence, etc. cause the difference between actual truth and legal truth.

Moreover, one of the reasons of divergence between actual truth and legal truth is the
unavailability of Evidence. There are statutes which justify the exclusion of witnesses even if they know
the actual truth. Such unavailability may result to a different legal truth. Further, evidence may be kept
from the judge because of the intrinsic requirements of the lawyer-client relationship of lawyers in an
adversarial system of trial.

The concept of legal truth is shaped partly by various exclusionary doctrines in the law of
evidence. In legal truth, only those which are relevant and competent while in actual truth accepts all
evidence provided it is what occurred.
Another root of difference is that the fact finding takes place in definite time periods such that
the discovery of the actual truth come too late. The finality of judgment also sets the legal truth different
from actual truth in that, the former is time-relative while the latter is universal.

Legal truth and substantive truth may diverge in a particular case and may also not. The court
finding facts may not represent the actual truth. While it is, generally desirable to avoid such situation,
Legal truth generally prevail by design. If the system is well-designed, the difference in actual truth and
legal truth is the cost of the system functioning as tool to maintain peace and civility among us.