The Cardassian approach to justice is radically different then that favoured by Federation worlds. Cardassians have absolute faith in their investigators, and maintain that only the guilty are ever arrested and brought to trial.
On Cardassia Prime a trial is intended only to demonstrate how the offender’s guilt was determined. Thus the purpose of the trial is not to establish facts – these are already known, and cannot be disputed – but to provide an educational experience for the populace, so trials are broadcast throughout Cardassia.
It is important to understand that, the Cardassian mind, the needs of the state outweigh the needs of the individual. The Cardassians believe that only a strong state can provide the necessary structure, security, and stability needed to safeguard the populace. It is a common assertion that “the survival of state is the survival of the people.”
A good trial demonstrates that the Cardassian state is not only always right, but is strong enough to capture and punish all offenders.
Some Cardassians will admit that under their system it is possible an innocent person may be punished, but they maintain that this is of little consequence. Confessing – even to a crime one did not commit – is seen as a last act of service to the state. The innocent Cardassian who is brought to trial recognizes this, and as a result confessions are often forthcoming.
The procedure ensures that when a person is arrested, his or her fate has already been decided. The accused is treated with little respect. While awaiting trial, prisoners are held in the central prison. When they arrive, they are instructed to remove their clothes; if they do not cooperate, these are removed by force. They are given the opportunity to make a confession at once, if they refuse they are processed. This involves taking a retinal scan and several DNA samples, including hair.
Prisoners are then issued with new clothing and confined to a cell. Trials are often arranged quickly, sometimes within two days of the arrest. The trial itself rarely lasts more than a day, and the punishment, often execution, is normally scheduled for the following week; the execution date is posted before the trial itself begins – yet another fine example Cardassian efficiency.
The offender is assigned a Public Conservator, who acts on their behalf. The Conservator will visit the defendant in prison and try to persuade him or her to confess. The Cardassians place great value on a confession; they have an old expression, “confession is good for the soul”. They also believe that it is good for the people to see criminals confess. To see justice triumph yet again makes them feel better about themselves and makes their lives more bearable. However, a Conservator may be pleased if a defendant refuses to confess at once or displays contempt for the court, since this will make for a better ‘show’.
It is standard procedure for Cardassians to use torture in their interrogation of prisoners; this increases the likelihood that the prisoner will make an appropriate confession.
The only ‘friend’, other than the Conservator, who is permitted to visit the defendant in prison, is the Nestor. This person is allowed to advise the defendant and must be an officer or the Cardassian court (or appointed by the court). The Nestor is allowed to attend the trial, but has no right to speak to anyone other then the offender. The offender’s family is also allowed to attend the trial; in fact, the court encourage their participation, because they believe it is good for the audience to see them crying.
The offender, his or her family is not informed of the crime of which the defendant is accused before the trial begins, and the court does not reveal what evidence will be presented during the trial.
The Cardassian court does not use the adversarial system. The judge, or Archon, who pronounces sentence without the aid of a jury, also acts as the prosecutor, and the Conservator makes no attempt to contradict any evidence he or she may introduce.
The Archon begins the trial by announcing the defendant’s crime and the sentence that has been decided upon. When the trial begins, the offender is offered the chance to confess.
The offender is not allowed to introduce any new evidence whatsoever. Under the Cardassian judicial system, no evidence can be submitted once the verdict has been reached, and the always happens before the trial begins.
During the trial, the Archon calls a number of witnesses who provide evidence of the offender’s guilt. The standards of proof required are not high, and unsubstantiated claims and hearsay are admissible forms of evidence.
The Conservator’s role is not to defend the offender, but to speak eloquently to the court and the offender. The mission of the Conservator is specifically to help the offender concede to the wisdom of the state and to prepare him or her to accept the inevitable guilty verdict. Once a confession has been signed, it is displayed for the citizens to read.
Offenders are required to testify, and when they do so, the Conservator will attempt to persuade them to show remorse for their crimes and to make a confession. The offender does not have the right to decline to answer any questions though he or she is encouraged to offer reasons why they have turned to crime.
The Archon does have the right to alter the sentence, though it is almost unheard of. Even if it happens, it is extremely unlikely that the Archon will question the offender’s guilt.