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Prosecutors urged to stop mocking defendants

Prosecutors urged to stop mocking defendants

Prosecutors should strive to convince judges to convict defendants instead of mocking, humiliating or making fun of the accused in court proceedings, a reform-minded prosecutor said yesterday.
Lai Ching-hsiang, a founding member of the Prosecutors' Reform Association, made the remarks in an article carried in the association's publication amid a heated debate between supporters and opponents of Chang Hsi-huai, a prosecutor in charge of a high-profile corruption case involving alleged misuse of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) special "state affairs fund" in which first lady Wu Shu-jen is a defendant.
In the opening session of the trial December 15, Chang derided Chen and traded barbs with defense attorneys on many occasions, causing ruling Democratic Progressive Party politicians and supporters to protest. Some DPP lawmakers turned to question Chang's integrity and even label him as "pro-China" because he has been to China five times and has donated funds to a Chinese legal group.
PRA members, most of them grass-roots prosecutors, are divided over Chang's performance in the "state affairs fund" trial. The squabbling between Chang's sympathizers and critics became even fiercer after Chang reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown Wednesday.
Commenting on a signature campaign launched by some PRA members and the Association for Prosecutors Thursday to show moral support for Chang, Lai wrote in his article that while "demonizing" prosecutors is unjust, making any individual prosecutor a cult figure "is equally wrong and stupid."
"Since we prosecutors are public servants, our behavior and statements are subject to public scrutiny. When the criticism against us is too caustic, unethical or even illegal, we can respond in a proper manner. We can either issue a public rebuttal or launch a signature drive in protest or even file a defamation suit and seek damage awards," Lai wrote.
Nevertheless, he went on, prosecutors should minimize redundant words and inappropriate actions during court proceedings in any criminal trials.
Prosecutors should particularly refrain from disparaging or laughing at defendants, witnesses or defense attorneys during court hearings, Lai wrote, adding that such acts only invite unnecessary confrontation or draw a backlash from the presiding judge and in some cases may mislead bystanders into questioning the impartiality and objectivity of the prosecutors themselves.
Meanwhile, DPP Legislator Wu Ping-jui said he has never questioned whether prosecutor Chang is pro-China or not. "I just wonder whether Chang has faithfully observed the civil service law and whether he had obtained prior approval for all of his China visits, "he added.
According to media reports, Chang has made five trips to China over the past several years, but the Ministry of Justice said it had just approved his China visits on three occasions.
"I'm curious about the reasons for the discrepancy. Since Chang can question whether someone is honest and law-abiding, his honesty or integrity should also be subject to others' examination, " Wu noted.


Updated : 2021-07-27 08:28 GMT+08:00