In the short play written by Billy Goda entitled “No Crime”, he claimed that “a man is innocent until proven guilty by law”. With this statement, Goda maintains that even if a man confesses to commit murder, but the confession was not made before the police or before the court, he must still be treated as an innocent man. It is only the judge who conducted the trial of the accused, who can issue a ruling that the man is guilty (Goda 76).
The quantum of evidence needed for the crime of murder is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the accused to warrant his conviction. Hence, a man is innocent of the charges against him, until the prosecution has presented ample evidence that will establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The reason behind this argument of Goda that “a man is innocent until proven guilty by law” is that guilt cannot be presumed even if a confession is made by the accused. In our present society, the laws are implemented to ensure that the public is safe and for the maintenance of peace and order. The primary purpose of the law is to provide punishment for those people who committed crimes against society. However, the law may rule in favor of the rich people even if they are guilty for crimes they committed. It is of common knowledge that poor people may be prejudiced by the present criminal justice system because rich criminals who can afford to pay the services of good lawyers can secure their acquittal.
In the play of Goda, one example of injustice was shown when Jim Abner, the owner of the law firm is interviewing one of the potential associates named Cal Roberts, who intends to join the firm. Roberts was the former student of Mr. Abner’s friend named Dave Horowits (Goda 76). One of the questions that Mr. Abner asked Roberts was what will he do if a man goes to him and confesses to committing the crime of murder. Roberts replied that if such man is one of clients of the firm, he shall be considered as innocent. Mr. Abner countered that since the man has already confessed that he killed a person, he cannot be considered innocent. Roberts argued that since the man did not make the confession before the police or any law enforcement officer, it cannot qualify as an admission of guilt. Roberts contends that the man shall be given the presumption of innocence until proven guilty before a competent court. This means that there must be adequate evidence that is submitted to the court for its appreciation before the judge can issue a ruling on the case. In addition, Roberts also stated that even if there is glaring evidence presented to prove the guilt of the accused, as his lawyer, he is capable to prove that he is innocent and did not commit murder. Impressed with his statement, Mr. Abner hired Roberts to become part of his law firm. Abner informed the newly hired lawyer Roberts that the first case that is assigned to him involves a man who smashed the head of a woman by using a bat (Goda 77).
Based on the dialogue of Mr. Abner and Roberts, it can be concluded that the job of the lawyer is to defend his client even if he is guilty. The statement of Abner only proves that the law firm earns money from clients as long as they receive favorable decisions from the court. Goda’s short play only proves that the present criminal justice system is flawed. There is irregularity in the administration of justice because the lawyers conceal the truth in order to secure the acquittal of their clients after receiving attorney’s fees. The truth is immaterial because what is important is to make the client appear innocent even if he committed the crime. The more money that the law firm will earn from its winning cases is the ultimate goal of its members. The work of the lawyer is symbolized by the tobacco that was chewed by Mr. Abner as he makes an offer to Roberts, who readily accepts it. Mr. Abner informed Roberts that among the potential associates who applied in the firm, none of them really liked tobacco because they found it unbearable and disgusting. Roberts agreed with this statement because tobacco symbolizes the nature of the work of a lawyer. Roberts was accepted by the firm because he expressed his willingness to do the dirty job of making even the guilty clients appear to be innocent before the court. Just like the tobacco, it is being chewed and spit out after the lawyer is done with the work. The demeanor of Roberts shows that he was willing to join the firm despite the fact that he is fully aware that firm is engaged in distasteful practice of law. An innocent man who holds the truth will not receive the justice that he deserves if there are lawyers like Abner and Roberts who are willing to circumvent the law in exchange of money.
The main theme of the short play of Goda is that laws are intended to be applied equally to all persons regardless of age, gender, race, religion or social status. However, the present criminal justice system is tainted with graft and corruption since the lawyers themselves are the ones who commit the injustice. The characters presented in the play revealed the true character of Abner and Roberts, who appear to be reputable lawyers in their own right. However, the law which is intended to bring peace and order and ensure the safety of the people is manipulated to benefit the chosen few. The purpose of the law is to promote justice, equality, and freedom from oppression. However, the justice system has become tainted with malice and ill will by some lawyers who manipulate the outcome of the case, as long as their clients pay the hefty price of freedom.
The idealism of serving the ends of justice for the innocent is defeated as long as there are corrupt lawyers who work for money. Based from the events presented in the play, despite the fact that a crime has been committed by the accused, the lawyer’s job is to prove before the court that such person is innocent. By proving the innocence of his client will require concealment of truth, fabricating evidence, and perpetration of fraud in order to guarantee his acquittal. Goda wants to present the current situation in the criminal justice system where the rich people can get away with murder as long as they pay good lawyers to keep them out of jail.
Young, Glenn. The Best American Short Play 1998-1999. New York: Applause, 2001.