46 | Moral Dimension of Time

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

W.B. Yeats

In 2005 the cold case cops faced a fight. Their true adversary was more formidable than Duane or any lawyer. A cold case is about time, and time is always on the defendant’s side.

Time is the cop’s enemy. The moment a crime is committed, the investigatory clock starts ticking. It’s a truism that the first 24 or 36 hours are critical to solving a case. When a suspect is identified, time continues to favor the defense. In addition to statutes of limitation and strict filing deadlines, each passing day increases the risk of evidence being lost, witnesses dying and memories failing. Time becomes the prosecutor’s enemy.

In a cold case these factors multiply a thousand-fold.

Time acquires a moral dimension, and its passage creates a new defense. The defense lawyer stands time on its head: Time itself—not his client—becomes the culprit, and truth the victim. In robbing him of his right to a fair trial, the ticking clock is the cold case defendant’s best friend.

Is time your friend?

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