英文

Editorial:Verdict on the Alex Chow case

【明報專訊】The Coroner's Court has returned an open verdict on the cause of death of HKUST student Alex Chow, who fell to his death during the anti-amendment movement the year before last. The coroner, Mr. Ko Wai-hung, said that the verdict was almost close to the truth. Chow's father expressed hope that the truth would be revealed in his lifetime. After a long and serious examination of all the evidence, the Coroner's Court was still unable to gain a full picture of the cause of Chow's death, which is somewhat regrettable. However, just as Chow's father has said, we have all tried our best. Since all parties have tried to find the truth in vain, we should respect the court's decision and accept the result that is the closest to the truth. We should not try to add new sorrow to what was already an unfortunate incident.

The verdict on this case was returned by the five members of the jury. The magistrate had guided the jurors to consider three options, including ''unlawful killing'', ''death by accident'', and ''open verdict''. The jury considered each of the three options in this order, excluding unlawful killing and then considering whether the death was accidental, and finally reached an open verdict after a rare 17-hour deliberation.

The jury system uses the perspective of the general public to understand the evidence provided by different parties. Although the different parties have given detailed explanations on the various doubts, the jurors still have questions about some of them. When they built the evidence into a big picture of the cause of Alex's death, they did so on the basis of what they truly believed to be acceptable. It is understandable why they have reached such a verdict, and this is also the essence of the jury system. People who agree or disagree with them should believe that their judgement was not influenced by personal bias and respect the fairness of the system.

Many people in society are very concerned about this case. Different people may have different views on this verdict, and everyone has the freedom to choose to believe certain facts or agree with certain views, but in the final analysis, there should be a generally acceptable consensus. The court's verdict, which is based on as many and comprehensive facts as possible in strict accordance with the law, should become a generally acceptable consensus in society. Seeking common ground while reserving differences means that different views are allowed, but there must be a common goal. Otherwise, society will continue to be divided and cannot function effectively.

An ''open verdict'' is not the most ideal, and any society should strive for the most ideal. But when the most ideal cannot be achieved, as in this case, the presence of a closed-circuit television capable of recording every second of every corner, it is not a perfect situation. Sometimes we just have to accept non-man-made regrets. Moreover, an open verdict does not call into question the veracity of a witness's testimony. It simply means that the evidence does not explain everything that happened beyond a reasonable doubt, which is also an imperfect situation.

明報社評 2021.01.11:尊重法庭裁決 接受有遺憾的接近真相

死因裁判法庭就科大學生周梓樂在前年反修例運動期間墮樓身亡案,得出「死因存疑」的裁決。裁判官高偉雄表示,差不多接近真相;梓樂父親表示希望有生之年能得到真相。死因庭經過長時間認真嚴肅的審視各種證據,仍未能對梓樂的死因得窺全豹,是有點遺憾,但正如梓樂父親所說,大家都盡力了。既然各方都盡力尋求真相而未果,目前就應該尊重法庭的裁決,接受這個最接近真相的結果,不要為本身已經是不幸的事件增添新愁。

本案裁決由陪審團5名成員定奪,裁判官在最後引導陪審員可考慮3個裁斷選項,包括「非法被殺」、「死於意外」或「存疑裁決」。陪審團在商議過程中,也是按這個順序逐一考慮,排除非法被殺後考慮是否死於意外,經過罕有的17小時長時間商議,最終得出「存疑裁決」的決定。

陪審團制度是用普通市民的角度,去理解各方提供的證據,雖然各方對各種疑點都給出詳細的解釋,但陪審團對某些疑點仍然存疑,他們將各種證據砌成周梓樂死因的大圖畫時,是按他們真實地認為能夠接受的事實作為依據,得出這個裁決是可以理解,也是陪審團制度的精義。同意或者反對他們看法的市民,應該相信他們的判斷並沒有受到個人偏見的影響,尊重這個制度是公正的。

社會上很多市民對這宗案件十分關心,不同人對於這個裁決可能有不同看法,各人都有選取相信某方面事實或者贊成某種看法的自由,但歸根結柢要有一個大致能接受的共識,法庭嚴格按照法律、根據盡量多而全面的事實,所得出的裁決,應該成為社會大致能接受的共識,所謂求同存異,就是允許有不同的看法,但必須有求同的目標,否則,這個社會將會繼續四分五裂而無法有效運作。

「存疑裁決」不是最理想,任何社會都應該追求最理想,但當最理想無法達到,好像這宗案件中,沒有一部閉路電視能夠每一秒都對準每一個角落錄影,是美中不足,但有時只能接受某種並非人為的遺憾。况且,「存疑」並非對某個證人的證辭的真實性存在懷疑,而是證供未能毫無疑點地解釋發生的全部事情,這也是美中不足的問題。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

in the final analysis:when everything has been considered

ideal /aɪˈdiːəl/:perfect; most suitable

veracity /vəˈræsəti/:the quality of being true; the habit of telling the truth

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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