This post would be too long to do at one time, so I am going to do it in two posts.
In criminal law, “Taking the Fifth,” also called “pleading the Fifth,” is when you refuse to testify under oath because your answers could later be used as evidence against you.
This right is similar to the right to remain silent when being questioned by police officers and comes from the same amendment – the Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights, says that a person can’t “be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” (Posted In Criminal Law Process by ShulamitShvartsmanForLawyers.com)
This topic is not about Jodi Arias. I am compelled to talk about not answering a direct question which happened to me recently, but I have been following Jodi Arias’ criminal defense case. If you remember her, she is the girl still on trial for killing her boyfriend, Travis Alexander. According to the prosecutors, Jodi Arias stabbed him 29 times, and this killing took place here in Mesa, Arizona.
The case has gathered a lot of media attention probably because we are all asking the same question, “How could a girl who has not killed anyone before able to commit such a horrible crime?” She has been asked every question–ones she may not even want her closest friends to hear, let alone her parents.
She has some days where she tells all, and some days she will burst into tears as they stream down her face unable to comprehend why she did herself such an injustice. But in her defense, Jodi Arias has answered all questions freely; some she couldn’t answer with the excuses that she could not hear the question. Of course, she has had more than a hundred reasons why she wasn’t coming forth with all the answers as the prosecutors would want. Well she is still covered somehow by The Fifth Amendment.
Initially I did not understand why she was not answering all her questions. Probably because I will never face such a crime, neither will we all know what goes on in a killer’s mind. But she is not different from all of us in terms of answering questions whether they are comfortable, uncomfortable, right or even the wrong types of questions.
There are some questions we cannot answer even when we know exactly how to answer them, or even when we know how to maneuver over the questions. Sometimes we can even lie about our answers so that the people wanting to know more about us will leave us alone ( I know what I was doing kind of situation). Sometimes the question can be very personal. In a personal question, if there is no law holding you to answer them, you can choose not to answer the question especially if can reveal secrets that you don’t want out there, but if there is a law holding you like Jodi Arias, you may choose to answer them, especially when you must have consulted a lawyer who then will give you an idea on how to dodge questions. After all most criminal defense attorneys went to school for that (not exactly). That is why they are defense lawyers, if that is the case.
There is another type of question: the question that you are most likely to go into detail. For example, if someone asked you about a vacation you took last summer, you will be more than likely to share your vacation experiences, knowing that your wonderful ideas can help another family to enjoy their dream vacation too. Those questions fall into personal categories too, yet not really personal. You can even write a book about it so that other people can have an idea on next steps to follow when planning a vacation, especially if it comes from a book, and especially if the book made it to the New York best sellers’ list. Here you can even exaggerate your happy vacations and add things that you probably heard on your way back home that you did not even come close to experiencing yourself–just because you want to add more excitement to your book for those wanting a dream vacation like the one you had.
Then there is another type of question, the one that everyone will consider to be annoying because the person asking that question already knew the answers whether she heard it from another person, yet she still wants to hear it from your mouth. (Let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth. They call it, “Confirmation”). I just want to confirm what I had already heard. Then you may want to ignore them totally knowing that they have no business asking those questions.
What if the question came honestly, genuinely unexpectedly, but worth answering? What if the question needs to be addressed urgently, but you cannot answer the question immediately? For some people you may instantly become the butt of jokes because automatically they will assume you have no clue what to answer. But for the person who had to answer the question, it becomes a humbling experience that must be addressed later. It becomes a memory that will live forever in their heart.
These are all kinds of questions that can be asked, but how you answer them depends on many circumstances. One can choose to answer them depending whether there are laws governing the question or even if the question is necessary or not.
I recently had to answer a question that brought me to tears. A question that brought back the pain, I have been dealing with for the past two years. It has a lot to do about what I did not do when my father was still alive. I went over the question mumbling. I felt the pain, the agony that the people honestly asking that question did not even know what transpired there. I call it, “The question that brought back the Pain,” The question was so painful that it needs to be addressed. It’s not the type of question you can answer in one minute. I chose not to answer the question in its entirety.
I was asked recently,,” What was the logical thing you have to do in your life and felt very impressed about it? I know there is one thing I did not do in the past 15yrs, I was leaving here. I felt like I neglected my father for most part, and was not impressed about it. His death last year brought the fear that is still in me. Come back to read part 2.
I chose not to answer the question; instead, I decided to answer it at my next open confession. When do we answer questions? Even if we do, do we answer them in their entirety. When is the best time, if at all, to answer emotional questions? I will complete the story in Part 2.