【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
■/ 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