Unthinkingly he remarked, “That is a ‘helluva’ of lot money.” The next day the boy came home crying, and the father said to him, “Son, what is the matter?” He said, “Dad, you did not give me the right answer.” [Laughter.]
It is with somewhat of a feeling of humility that I even attempt to represent or to speak for the National Association of Attorneys General. The personnel of this association is composed of some of the ablest lawyers in the land, many of whom would grace the ermine of our highest courts. Through the Association of the Attorneys General the Council of State Governments, that great organization which has accomplished so much by disseminating and distributing the laws throughout the various States of the Nation, has performed a marvelous service by unifying laws that affect the daily life and conduct of every man, woman, and child in the Nation.
Each State, of course, has its own problems and legal questions. The procedure in one State may not be applicable in another. The attorney general plays an important part in his respective State in construing the statutes, and advising the agencies of the State Government. In some States he is the public prosecutor, while in others he prosecutes only when directed by the chief executive, but in each he is at all times the legal advisor to the State officers.
Would that every attorney general of our organization could have been here and have participated in these deliberations. I know it would have been instructive and would enlighten him to perform better his official duties. I know each would be impressed, as was I, with the President’s sincere and timely message delivered from this platform.
From the legal standpoint Attorney General Clark gave us much food for thought. As a prosecutor of some 20 years, one realizes and appreciates that of all of the criminal cases tried throughout the land – I think I am safe in saying that perhaps the same result obtains elsewhere in our State – the crime of arson in its different aspects gets the least number of convictions of all the crimes punishable under the law.
Why? Because, as General Clark stated, the evidence usually is burned up. But it has been my experience that in nearly all of the cases in which the prosecution was successful, it was largely dependent upon circumstantial evidence, the most technical guarded evidence known to our jurisprudence.
The average person knows little about gathering circumstantial evidence and preserving it so that the prosecutor can go into court with it and satisfy a strict construction of the law, and it follows that the average juror is somewhat prejudiced against circumstantial evidence. Yet to my mind, when the chain of circumstances is complete, it is the best evidence that there is, as I have frequently stated to juries, circumstances do not lie, and witnesses sometimes do. [Laughter.]
It is therefore becomes necessary, indeed imperative, that through the legal heads of government – Attorney General, District Attorneys, City Attorneys – that law enforcing personnel must be schooled and instructed in the gathering and preserving of circumstantial evidence. Usually the fireman has his duties to perform and overlooks some very important features in every fire. It requires particularly trained investigators, and schools for that purpose should be conducted throughout the various States, counties, and municipalities in order to have men trained in that