Due Process is a fundamental principle of fairness in all legal matters, both civil and criminal and mostly in the courts. All legal procedures set by statute and court practice, including notice of rights, must be followed for each individual so that no prejudicial or unequal treatment will result. The universal guarantee of due process is in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which provides “No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
As seen in John 18:19-23, Jesus demanded that the high priest provide witnesses against him, proving that he had in some way violated the law. This was never done. Jesus said, “I spake openly to the world; I even taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort, and in secret have I said nothing. Why asketh thou me? Ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I have said.” – John 18:20-21
Jesus exercised his right to face his accusers (Isaiah 50:8), and his protection of God (Isaiah 54:17), thus becoming an example for all those accused of lawbreaking, or “sin” (1 John 3:4).
The Fifth Amendment
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution provides some of the most important fundamental rights that an individual has in legal matters. It states:
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
The principle that a man is not obliged to furnish the state with ammunition against him is basic to this conception. The state has no right to compel the individual to surrender or impair his right of self-defense. A man may be punished, even put to death by the state; but he should not be made to prostrate himself.
Let’s be honest. When someone exercises his Fifth Amendment right not to testify against himself, aren’t you inclined to think he is guilty? We ask ourselves, “Why would someone who is innocent be unwilling to tell the truth?”
How are questions asked?
Interrogations are conducted by law enforcement officials in an effort to seek confessions and develop details about crimes. Confession is a good goal for interrogations, however “Some officers are like used car salesman. But instead of selling a junky car to someone, we have to sell the idea that confessing is the best thing to do.”
An interrogation is essentially an interview. But unlike traditional interviews, interrogations are often perceived as much more hostile, antagonistic, and perhaps to some degree, even frightening. They begin much like traditional interviews. The basic goal is to obtain and secure information and they do this by having the interviewer ask questions and use purposeful conversation.
Interviewers avoid asking questions that are answered by a “yes” or “no”. They try to get the witness to open up. (However, at the end of the interview yes or no questions can be useful to pin down a specific position or fact).
Example: “Sir, please answer only yes or no, ‘Do you still lie and cheat?’” The answer here can get you the results you want but the answer can be considered leading. If yes then you have your confession if no then your suspect has given you more ammunition for the possibility they are guilty.
The nature of the questions asked by Annas is revealing: “The high priest therefore questioned Jesus about His disciples and about His teaching” (John 18:19). It was obvious, even to Pilate, that the real issue behind the trial of Jesus was that of jealousy. The Jewish religious leaders were jealous of Jesus’ prestige, popularity, and power (Matthew 27:18). The religious leaders became greatly distressed by the tremendous influence of Jesus.
Jesus carefully avoided any reference to His disciples, probably in order to protect them. There was no need to question Jesus concerning His teaching. He had spoken publicly, for all to hear and judge His words. Jesus reminded Annas, that he had no right to ask Him anything until the evidence of witnesses had been taken and found to agree.
It was because His interrogation was illegal that Jesus responded to Annas, “Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; behold these know what I said” (John 18:21). In Jewish justice, as in our own system, no one can be compelled to testify against himself. Annas was seeking to compel Jesus to testify against Himself. Jesus rightly refused to respond to this kind of questioning.
Again I ask, when someone refuses to answer questions and testify for himself, aren’t you inclined to think they are guilty?
In modern law when there is a trail, twelve people are chosen to hear all the evidence and decide if the case was proven. These twelve people must agree unanimously that the suspect is guilty or innocent. If even one is not in agreement, then the case is thrown out. The trial and any conviction would now be legal and justified, provided the evidence was sufficient to substantiate the charges and the records do not prove the contrary.
Trial of Jesus
In John 11 we see what kind of trial Jesus had. John wants us to know that Caiaphas, before whom our Lord would stand trial, is a judge who had already made up his mind about Jesus. Caiaphas, by whom Jesus would be condemned to die, was a man who had already determined that Jesus must die. This was not going to be a just trial. That much was clear already. John tells us the only thing about Caiaphas that really matters – that his mind was already made up.
In order to get what they wanted, the religious leaders had to come up with a bigger charge.
Roman authorities were not involved in every criminal proceeding throughout the vast empire. The Roman government would only intervene in criminal affairs for matters of treason, civil disobedience, incitement to revolution, and attacks against Caesar. Otherwise, local administration was conducted by local officials and the regular courts of the conquered nations.
Jesus’ opponents accused Him of blasphemy, but since they did not want to execute Him themselves, they created charges of treason against Him. This way, the trial would be brought before Pontius Pilate and, in their minds, he and the Romans would be responsible for Jesus’ death.