Segments in this Video

Introduction: Truth on Trial (01:07)


Fred Friendly introduces the topic of ethics in the courtroom. Attorneys have an obligation to clients firstly, but that obligation might conflict with one’s moral code that is applied to every other aspect of his or her life.

Faulty Product (03:04)

Moderator Charles Nesson presents a hypothetical case study about Hiram Powers to a panel of professionals. Hiram has a company that sells space heaters, and he learns that the heater has a tendency to tip over and start fires. He asks counsel for advice, but thinks the resolution is too costly.

Product Documentation (06:44)

Hiram creates a document of notes on his computer about the faulty heater. Some panel members say to destroy the documents because it is not illegal to do so at this point; others say Hiram has an ethical obligation to customers to inform them of the possible harm caused by the heaters.

Death Results in a Legal Case (02:48)

An apartment in a tenement house catches fire because of the faulty space heater and kills a little girl. Joseph Cotchett says he has a moral obligation to advise the father to retain a lawyer and investigate. Cotchett would handle the case on a contingent fee arrangement.

Legal Deposition (05:06)

The panel discusses how Powers should prepare for a deposition. He needs to answer all the questions truthfully. Powers should use specific language to avoid perjury.

Asking Ill-Framed Questions (03:13)

Using gamesmanship is something lawyers will do to obtain an advantage. When they frame questions, they do their best to include all information possible to ensure the opposition answers with complete honesty.

Manipulating the Truth (07:04)

Panel members discuss how attorneys on each side of a case treat people. The job of a lawyer is to boost the image of their client and destroy the image of an opposing witness.

Deceiving the Jury (05:07)

Lawyers are not always looking for, or producing the whole truth. If they stay in the borders of the rules, they have a right to skew evidence in their direction. Attorneys work to produce true evidence that is most favorable for their side and encourage the jury to disbelieve the other side.

Introducing New Evidence (07:25)

The panel members discuss the ethics of how to proceed when obtaining new evidence at the end of a case. They agree they will respond by keeping to the code of professional responsibility.

Destroying Documents (05:37)

The panel members talk about destroying confidential documents at the end of a trial. Robert Maynard introduces the idea that the public has because the documents can be about things that are harmful to the community. Others disagree and say the documents should be destroyed.

Media and Legal Proceedings (03:00)

Panel members discuss how the media receives information; it has several possible sources. The one person reporters do not ask for details about the trial is the judge who tried the case.

Adversary System (02:59)

The purpose of the court system is to produce a verdict using the truth that best represents each side. Lawyers are sometimes put in roles where they must do things in the interest of their clients that others might deem immoral.

Conclusion and Human Experiment (00:46)

Friendly reminds viewers that the beliefs and morality of attorneys and judges are critical; rights and ethics are not synonymous. Friendly introduces the next episode.

Credits: Truth on Trial (01:29)

Credits: Truth on Trial

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

Truth on Trial

Part of the Series : Ethics in America
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Is an attorney's first obligation to the court, the client, or the public? Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Judge Robert Merhige, attorneys Floyd Abrams and Stanley Chesley, philosopher John Smith, and others debate civil litigation's ethical dilemmas

Length: 57 minutes

Item#: BVL160437

Copyright date: ©1989

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video, Dealer and Publisher customers.