In every criminal trial, the defense attorney performs an obligation—presenting a possible scenario creating reasonable doubt their client is guilty.
See, each trial has certain facts. A witness who claims a person matching the Defendant’s description was at the crime. Doctors who testify to the cause of death or injury. Police officers explaining data taken from the scene. Exhibits. Fingerprints. Blood results.
And those facts led the police to arrest the accused as a suspect. Those facts led the prosecutor to authorize charging the crime. Those facts led the magistrate to bind the defendant over for trial. And now those very same facts will be displayed to a group of neutral jurors, who are very likely to equally find the most reasonable conclusion is that the defendant is guilty of the crime.
This is where the defense attorney steps in. She must explain an alternative interpretation to the facts. Just because the Defendant was captured in the video right before the robbery, doesn’t mean he entered the store. Just because the Defendant’s fingerprints are on the gun, doesn’t mean he pulled the trigger. Just because the technician claims the blood results are one thing, doesn’t mean we have to trust them.
The Defense attorney constantly presents “possibilities.” Not probabilities (not their job.) Something…anything…to give the jurors an opportunity to say, “No, maybe there is enough doubt here, we should not convict the Defendant.”
Two things happen; the second sometimes more interesting than the first.
1) Jurors--despite all these “possibilities”--overwhelmingly convict Defendants.
See, the jurors understand the Defense attorney’s job. They understand the inherent bias—unless the attorney has no other choice, everything must be bent toward the scenario whereby the Defendant is not guilty. If someone sees the Defendant arrive at the crime scene at 7 p.m., and another witness sees them leave at 7:30 p.m., Defense counsel will argue the Defendant left at 7:01 and came back at 7:29. That is their job.
“It is possible the Defendant could leave and then come back…” “No one saw them there the entire time…”
Yet jurors realize people rarely are under constant surveillance. That people rarely come onto a scene, leave it immediately, and come back later. While it is certainly a “possibility”—not a probability.
They understand, taking into consideration the other facts, the high likelihood the Defendant arrived at 7 and stayed until 7:30.
In every trial we bob and weave and dance and twist, showing over and over how there is another “possibility” to the prosecutor’s theory. The jurors look with sympathetic eyes and quietly reject the “possibility” for the probability. The fact set conforming to their ordinary life experiences.
“We find the Defendant Guilty.”
2) The second phenomenon is that often Defendants become convinced by their own press. They hear the attorney present these possibilities and the alternatives begin to solidify in their minds. Rather than just “possibilities” they become stronger and strong probabilities. Soon they becomes facts—“It’s not on video, is it?”
The Defendants begin to think their case is pretty good. Real solid. They could win this thing! Their relatives in the galley are impressed with the lawyer cross-examining the police officer. The technician admitting they are not 100% certain—there is room for error. The fact all these “holes” are seemingly punched in the prosecutor’s case.
Besides, O.J. heard “Not Guilty” because of that glove. Every movie (except To Kill a Mockingbird) has the Defendant acquitted in a triumphant Perry Mason twist.
Defendants begin to believe the “possibilities” are sufficient. They are not.
“We find the Defendant Guilty.”
I find this same attitude amongst Christian apologetics. As if “possibilities” of alternative interpretations fitting the Christian’s desired conclusion are sufficient to overcome the overwhelming probability to the contrary. (How many times have we seen “possibilities” offered as a response to contradictions?)
And, likewise, Christian apologists believe their own press. They begin to think these “possibilities” are substantial enough to overcome the probabilities.
We completed a discussion regarding the old chestnut of Jesus predicting the parousia within the lifetime of the listeners, and how it did not occur. Anete Acker did an admirable job, playing the part of the Defense Attorney/Christian apologist, giving about the best answer she could.
But in the end, it is just like the Defense. All those “possibilities” do not sustain over the more obvious probabilities; whether Jesus actually said it or someone put those words in his mouth—they were incorrect.
Apologetics do not convince, because we non-believers look to probabilities, not possibilities. We understand the Christian apologist (just like Defense counsel) will bob and weave and twist the scraps of facts we have to conform to their necessary interpretation. We are not bound by such doctrinal or theological limitations.
We don’t care whether it was recorded Jesus predicted something and it was correct or not. We have no purchase in this game.
Thus we are not convinced, any more than jurors are.