Lies, damned lies, and the testimony of the accused
I believe Huntley killed the girls, but I doubt he did it. It's a paradox but it's the reason, absent a confession, that he should be acquitted.
Imagine this was what really happened: one of the girls had a nosebleed, and as he reached for some lavatory paper, he knocked her into the bath he had run for his dog and she promptly drowned. Her friend alarmed him by screaming that he pushed her and he clamped a hand over her mouth in panic, suffocating her.
(It's not a likely story but the truth is not always likely. Sometimes - although not often - it's inexpressibly twisty.)
What else though, if it were true, could Huntley say but I know it's unlikely but this is what happened? It doesn't sound like a cunning story he cooked up to explain the facts - which is how the prosecutor paints it - because it is only barely plausible. Surely he could have come up with better, even if he isn't the sharpest tool in the box?
Or perhaps he is. Instead of coming up with a solid, believable story, he thought one up so mad that it beggars belief he would expect it to be credited. Which leads you to think maybe...
The thing is, I can imagine that that was what really happened. It's not impossible. There are no witnesses, of course, and none of the forensics are likely to prove anything because he spoilt the evidence.
Doubtless he'll be convicted. Most would feel that justice will be served. As I say, I believe he did it. But ought we to convict people on our beliefs? I remember an interview with one of the jurors who convicted Mike Tyson. They said that they convicted him because they believed her more than they believed him. That's pretty rough justice, even if you reckon he got what he deserved. Justice is not about what you deserve.
I don't usually read the details of these big cases in the papers. I don't care enough about the people involved, and I find the dissection of a person's demise distasteful. But I did read through the questioning of Huntley by the prosecution lawyer Latham.
Latham sneers, accuses and poses, cowing Huntley, pushing and bullying him into a display of temper so that he can say aha, but you do have a temper! You might have gone mental and snuffed the kids.
(Well, I have a temper and would probably snap if some pompous twat gave me the third degree in a stressful scenario like a trial, but I've never drowned anybody in a bath, and I'm reasonably sure I won't be doing so.)
"You took them into the house to assault them, didn't you?" (I paraphrase but you'll get the idea.)
Huntley can only say no, but the idea is out there. It's abroad and the jury take the lawyer's point. We've all seen the films - we know how a prosecutor works to "break" a witness, playing to the jury, mugging his disbelief. But IRL the witness doesn't break. The prosecutor insinuates, spins a tale, puts his version of the story. In some cases, his version of the story, largely unsupported by the evidence, is the prosecution case.
There is a lot of talk about reforming the justice system, and doubtless reform is needed. Not the sort advocated by our government, who alarm us by suggesting that we can dispense with juries, the right to silence and habeas corpus, among other inconveniences. Certainly, tighter controls over the police and their interaction with the media are a must. The police practically convicted Huntley before the trial began. I'd like to see an end to the accusatory examination of witnesses, the playacting. I don't think it serves justice, because a person should be convicted by the facts, not because they admire the performance of a man in a wig.
The prosecution could submit a list of questions they will ask, which they would be permitted to supplement. Perhaps the judge would rule on the admissibility of questions, so that the prosecution could be prevented from leading witnesses in advance, rather than being allowed to make suggestions that the judge must force them to withdraw (but of course the memory is not wiped from the jurors). You might complain that this allows the defence to prepare the defendant, for example, by priming him, making sure his story is watertight, coaching him. But a court is a stressful place. Huntley has lied on the stand and the prosecutor presents that as evidence that his story is flawed. But it isn't evidence of the crime so much as evidence that Huntley is liable to fib when he's stressed. The prosecutor seeks to confuse the jury, so that they draw conclusions from his behaviour in court, which is not the subject of the trial, and apply them to his behaviour a year ago, which is.
It seems that trials can devolve into a contest of obfuscation, as the defence tries to create doubt through the trial, rather than through the evidence, and the prosecution tries to condemn the accused likewise.
I remember in the OJ Simpson case, the damning DNA evidence, which ought to have seen the guy sent down, was put into doubt by the defence's simply throwing tons of mud at it. They sought to confuse the jury, not by questioning the evidence as such, but by taking the jury down a path where they became lost in a welter of statistics and suppositions, and, one can only presume, surrendered their confidence that the evidence meant anything. Of course, that case was a textbook example of how a trial can be won by lawyers who concentrate on side issues that have no bearing on the evidence. It was astonishing that the defence could present as evidence of their client's innocence that the arresting officer was a racist. The jury, one supposes, understood the implication, ludicrous as it was, that the LAPD fitted up OJ for having the effrontery to have a white wife. That OJ, not the LAPD, was on trial didn't worry anybody.